Bribery case against Westland to go ahead

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A US court case in which Westland Helicopters, the UK defence company, is accused of being part of a bribery and corruption conspiracy is to go ahead in spite of an application by Westland to dismiss the case.

In a deferred ruling made in a Washington DC court on Monday, Judge June Green denied an application by Westland Helicopters and Westland Group, its parent company, for the case against them to be dismissed. The companies claimed that the US court did not have jurisdiction over British companies.

Judge Green also denied a similar application by a Saudi Arabian businessman who is accused of being a middleman in an alleged plot by US and British defence companies to bribe two Saudi princes to award the companies contracts worth dollars 6bn (pounds 3.5bn).

The judge also ruled that allegations against Westland and Ibrahim Al Namlah, the Saudi defendant, that they were part of a racketeering conspiracy under the US Racketeer Influenced Corrupt Organisations Act will proceed.

The civil lawsuit has been brought by Thomas Dooley, a former US army lieutenant colonel, who claims he was wrongly demoted by Sikorsky Aircraft, his employer, for threatening to expose a bribery conspiracy involving Westland Helicopters and Sikorsky. He is suing Sikorsky and United Technology Corporation, its parent company, for dollars 130m (pounds 77m) in damages.

Mr Dooley alleges that four Saudi princes were 'conspirators' in the scheme. The judge's ruling says Mr Namlah was allegedly designated by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the US, to be Sikorsky's 'contact' in Saudi Arabia.

Mr Dooley claims that Mr Namlah presented a letter from Prince Sultan, the Saudi minister of defence, and Prince Bandar's father, stating that he, Prince Sultan, had no objection to Sikorsky entering into a business relationship with Mr Namlah.

The judge's ruling says: 'In exchange for the sales, UTC allegedly agreed to pay bribes to Prince Khalid bin Sultan and Prince Fahad bin Sultan, also sons of Prince Sultan, through Namlah.'

Mr Dooley also alleges that Westland was to be used to supply armed Black Hawk helicopters, which Westland makes under licence to Siksorky, in order to circumvent US arms export controls. The judge's ruling says the Saudis were primarily interested in purchasing armed Black Hawks 'because Congress would not approve such a sale'.

Mr Dooley's lawyers said no date had been fixed, but the trial could begin in April 1993.

Westland Helicopters said: 'We understand our motion to dismiss has been denied and our lawyers are studying the ruling.'