US firm 'bribed' princes in dollars 6bn helicopter deal: Tim Kelsey and Peter Koenig report on allegations made in court by a retired US officer and weapons salesman

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The Independent Online
TWO Saudi Arabian princes were bribed so that an American helicopter manufacturer could win business under the umbrella of the Al Yamamah arms deal, according to papers lodged in a United States court.

In a 160-page complaint filed in a Washington court three years ago, a retired American Army lieutenant-colonel, Thomas Dooley, claimed his career as an arms salesman was destroyed after he raised questions inside his firm, the American defence company United Technologies, about money due to be paid to two Saudi princes.

Dooley claimed United Technologies planned to pay bribes to win an initial order for the sale of 13 Black Hawk helicopters to Saudia Arabia.

He said the recipients of the bribes were two princes. He alleged that 'by virtue' of the bribes his company 'was able to parlay its initial entry into the Saudi Arabian market . . . into a much larger sale of Black Hawks through the British helicopter manufacturer Westland'. The deal was supposed to be worth dollars 6bn.

According to Dooley's complaint, the payment of bribes was to work like this: A Saudi businessman was to enter into a commercial partnership with the two Saudi princes.

He would be awarded a contract to service the Black Hawk helicopters purchased by Saudi Arabia.

The money to be pocketed by the princes would be 'disguised as (support) contract awards, commissions, and consulting and service fees'. Dooley alleged that the businessman would retain his 'cut' or 'bonus' and slip the remainder to the two princes.

In pre-trial proceedings it emerged that the helicopter deal was never completed. But the framework for the contract showed how the Saudis constructed complex machinery in their arms dealings.

An influential Saudi diplomat was alleged by Dooley to have directed the businessman 'to sign a joint venture agreement with Westland' which enabled the necessary flow of funds to take place.

Upon completion of this joint venture agreement, Dooley claimed, Saudi Arabia 'would select the Black Hawk over (French defence manufacturer) Aerospatiale's Super-Puma helicopter'.

His employer, he continued, was 'aware that the joint venture would provide Saudi Arabia with a conduit for payment to influential Saudi Arabian government officials, through an apparent legal entity which would in fact cloak the illegal bribes as contract awards and payments'.

Dooley, a graduate of the West Point military academy, in New York State, and a Vietnam veteran, sued United Technologies and other parties, including Westland Helicopters, for a total of dollars 130m in damages.

All defendants in the civil lawsuit vigorously protested their innocence. Last year Dooley won an out of court settlement for an unspecified sum of money.