Defence civil servant took pounds 1.5m in bribes: Corrupt proceeds from arms deals deposited in Swiss banks

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A SENIOR Ministry of Defence official was yesterday found guilty of taking pounds 1.5m in bribes from foreign ammunition suppliers in exchange for lucrative arms contracts.

In what MoD police described as the biggest corruption case of its kind, Gordon Foxley, 69, was convicted at Snaresbrook Crown Court, east London, of feeding contracts to three companies for nearly five years until he retired in 1984.

He channelled secret payments from a Fiat subsidiary, Fratelli Borletti, of Milan, Italy; Gebruder Junghans, of Schramberg, Germany; and A S Raufoss of Gjovik, Norway - which all paid him around 5 per cent commission from the deals - into Swiss bank accounts via Interep, Scientific and Confrere, companies he owned or had a direct controlling interest in.

The corruption of the former director of ammunition procurement went undetected until 1989 when fraud officers stumbled upon it during an unrelated investigation.

Yesterday the jury took four hours to convict Foxley, a civil servant for 32 years, of 12 counts of corruption.

Roy Amlot QC, for the defence, was granted leave to appeal on the grounds that the prosecution case 'uniquely' depended solely on documentary evidence.

Judge Andrew Brooks delayed sentencing until 10 December for reports and released Foxley on pounds 100,000 bail. Each charge carries a maximum two years' jail sentence.

Victor Temple QC, for the prosecution, said a restraining order on his assets had been applied for.

Foxley, described as clever and arrogant by those who know him, enjoyed a lavish lifestyle for a grade 6 civil servant on a pounds 20,000 salary.

His pounds 500,000, six-bedroom home at Henley-on-Thames, Oxfordshire, complete with swimming pool, backs on to the town's golf course. The family owns a cottage in Wiltshire and has driven a series of expensive cars including a Rolls- Royce and Jaguar XJS.

Fraud officers believe the Foxleys also own a home in Switzerland and a boat, but have yet to trace them. Inquiries into Foxley's assets will cover gifts to members of his family.

Detective Superintendent Colin Rogers, who headed the investigation, said that much of the pounds 1.5m Foxley received will not be recovered. It is believed to be in Swiss bank accounts and the authorities there have proved unhelpful.

Foxley's intelligence was evident in the complexity of the deception. His arrogance showed in his attitude to those who tried to prove his guilt. When detectives raided Foxley's home they found a poem written by him and apparently dedicated to Det Supt Rogers. Entitled 'Roger the Bodger', it reckoned that police stood little chance of proving a case against him.

The court heard that Odon Gelbert, Foxley's business partner, boasted in a letter that neither Scotland Yard nor Sherlock Holmes would be able to trace the money.

Foxley was arrested and questioned twice before being charged. On both occasions he was released on grounds of insufficient evidence.

An MoD spokesman said yesterday: 'If people are minded to engage in corrupt practices it is not always easy to stop them.' Det Supt Rogers said, however, that changes in practice within the MoD made a similar case unlikely.

According to the National Audit Office there were 282 cases of fraud at MoD establishments between 1982 and 1988.

John Reed, editor of the Defence Industry Digest, said yesterday that in the late 1980s a senior manager of a large defence contractor told him that the British MoD had the reputation of being the most corrupt in Europe. But practices had changed.