GPT in court on corruption charges over Saudi military contract

Three businessmen have made their first appearance in a London court on corruption charges relating to contracts for the Saudi military.

The trio along with GPT Special Project Management, a former Airbus subsidiary, appeared at Westminster magistrates’ court on Monday to face charges relating to a £2bn UK government contract to provide communications services to the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

Jeffrey Cook, 63, the former managing director of GPT, along with John Mason, 77, a finance officer at two of the company’s subcontractors, and Terence Dorothy, 79, of Dartford, Kent all appeared in the courtroom via video link.

GPT Special Project Management Ltd, which stopped operations in April, was represented by Hugo Keith QC who attended the court in person.

Mr Cook, who lives in Ceredigion, west Wales, Mr Mason, who lives in Norfolk, and GPT are jointly charged with one corruption allegation which spans January 2007 and December 2012 and relates to contracts awarded to GPT carried out for the Saudi Arabian National Guard.

Mr Cook also faces two further charges of misconduct in public office for contracts placed when he was employed by the Ministry of Defence.

Mr Dorothy has been charged with aiding and abetting Mr Cook. Mr Dorothy is a former MoD official who was working at a government contractor at the time of the alleged offence. 

The three men spoke briefly via the video link on Monday to confirm their names, dates of birth and addresses. Emma Arbuthnot, chief magistrate, told them she was sending the case to Southwark Crown Court for the next hearing on October 12.

The three men were granted bail with the conditions that they notify the court of any change of address or any overseas travel. 

The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) launched a criminal probe into GPT in mid-2012 after allegations were made by a former GPT employee.

The GPT case is unconnected to a €3.6bn plea deal reached between the SFO, US and French authorities and Airbus in January which related to bribery and corruption in subsidiaries of the European aerospace and defence contractor. 

The GPT prosecution comes as Lisa Osofsky, director of the SFO, last week defended her record of investigations and prosecutions following recent criticism of the anti-fraud agency. 

In a speech to the online Cambridge International Symposium on Economic Crime last week, Ms Osofsky said that since becoming SFO director she had streamlined the SFO’s work and not been afraid to close criminal investigations.

These have included dropping high-profile probes into Rolls-Royce and GlaxoSmithKline. “Where a case is not going to meet the tests set out in the Code for Crown Prosecutors, it is our responsibility to close it,” she told the online event. “Frankly, ageing cases are not good for prosecutors either.” she added.

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