Major is pressed on Thatcher arms deal

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The Independent Online
A LABOUR MP who obtained secret documents detailing claims that Mark Thatcher and the Conservative Party earned 'huge' sums from the Al Yamamah arms deal is demanding to know what action Baroness Thatcher took when he passed the papers to her in 1989.

Jeff Rooker, MP for Perry Barr and a former member of the influential Public Accounts Committee, sent copies to Lady Thatcher more than five years ago and was assured by her that she had given them to 'the appropriate authorities'.

However, after being pressed by Mr Rooker to explain what Lady Thatcher did to check the allegations, John Major failed to say what action was taken or who the 'relevant authorities' were.

In a letter to Mr Rooker, Mr Major said: 'I am told that the anonymous document which you sent contained a number of clear inaccuracies and that there was no evidence to support the allegations made.'

The papers, which were sent to Mr Rooker anonymously and obtained separately by the Independent in 1992, are entitled 'Newspaper articles on BAe and HMG bribes to obtain Tornado etc business'. They form an internal memorandum detailing deals in Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Malaysia. It is not known who wrote the memorandum to whom.

The allegations were impossible to prove at the time, but the information it conveys about Malaysia has turned out to be remarkably accurate, given the revelations over the Pergau dam arms-for-trade affair.

On Saudi it says: 'There are constant phone calls between Mrs T and King Fahd and Sir Peter Levene (then Chief of Defence Procurement) and Prince Sultan. Levene was in fact the person that made the crude oil arrangement which was invented to enable HMG (Her Majesty's Government)/BAe (British Aerospace) to pay the huge commissions to the Saudis and their middlemen whilst still enabling HMG and BAe to sanctimoniously declare 'there are no commission payments by us'.'

The memo says a BAe source alleged that the Saudis were invoiced 120 per cent of the usual price charged to the RAF for Tornado fighter- bombers, allowing them to draw the money from the Saudi exchequer, pay the real price to BAe and pocket the difference. The total paid by the Saudis was pounds 21bn, making the deal the largest ever between two countries.

It continues: 'The same source also states that there is a sizeable payment to the Conservative Party ('a huge sum') which is being administered by Wafiq Said (a Syrian- born arms dealer) in conjunction with Mark T'

Mr Rooker wrote to Mr Major again yesterday questioning what inquiries made by the Thatcher administration. 'Mr Major's first reply to me seemed non-committal but it has left the way clear to go forward because he says the document contained 'clear inaccuracies',' he said. 'I want to know what exactly is inaccurate so I can see just what is accurate within the document.'

A Downing Street spokeswoman said last night that Lady Thatcher had passed on the documents to the Cabinet Office for scrutiny. The Cabinet Office confirmed it had received tham and passed them on to the 'relevant authorities', but not what authorities were involved.