THE House of Lords Court of Appeal has ruled that the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) acted lawfully when it rolled over in front of the Saudi Royal Family and halted its investigation into a Saudi arms deal which allegedly saw millions of pounds of bribe money handed over to the Saudi Royal Family to secure a £43 billion fighter plane deal.
The SFO abandoned its inquiry into the £43bn deal with BAE Systems over fears it would threaten the future of British capitalism after the Saudi government said it would withdraw cooperation on security matters.
The High Court had ruled in April that the abandonment of the investigation was unlawful.
The Law Lords voted 5-0 in favour of the SFO decision being 100% lawful.
One of the Law Lords, Baroness Hales said that she would have liked to have been able to uphold the court’s decision because it was ‘extremely distasteful that an independent public official should feel himself obliged to give way to threats of any sort’.
However she put that to one side saying that ‘I agree that decision was lawful.’
Lord Bingham said of the SFO director Robert Wardle that he ‘was confronted by an ugly and obviously unwelcome threat’.
He engaged in some sophistry saying that whether Wardle’s decision was right or wrong was not at issue, rather whether it was one he was lawfully entitled to make.
Wardle was therefore legally entitled to act illegally!
The verdict of the Justice, Human Rights group was that ‘It is a sad day for the rule of law when a senior prosecutor bows to threats from a foreign government and our most senior judges will do nothing to stop it.’
Corner House, which was one of the groups which campaigned for the initial High Court judicial review of the decision, said it was also ‘very disappointed’.
Nicholas Hildyard of The Corner House said: ‘Now we know where we are. Under UK law, a supposedly independent prosecutor can do nothing to resist a threat made by someone abroad if the UK government claims that the threat endangers national security.
‘The unscrupulous who have friends in high places overseas willing to make such threats now have a “Get Out of Jail Free” card – and there is nothing the public can do to hold the government to account if it abuses its national security powers. Parliament needs urgently to plug this gaping hole in the law and in the constitutional checks and balances dealing with national security.
‘With the law as it is, a government can simply invoke “national security” to drive a coach and horses through international anti-bribery legislation, as the UK government has done, to stop corruption investigations.’
Both Justice and Corner House are missing the point.
Bourgeois law is the framework for the defence of the bourgeois order against either foreign challenges or the threat of working class action at home.
The law is the framework but it is not absolute as far as the ruling class is concerned.
In the north of Ireland, a part of the UK, the state organised death squads to which the army and the police passed the pictures and addresses of those enemies of the union that it wanted to have murdered.
Nobody in charge of organising these squads has ever stood trial for these acts of murder and under the rule of the bourgeoisie they never will.
For the bourgeoisie, actions needed to secure the survival of the capitalist system are higher than any section of the bourgeois law, however formally illegal they are.
Witness the police shoot to kill squads in the UK, none of whose members or organisers have ever stood trial for murder, and never will.
The lesson from the recent Saudi fiasco is that bourgeois law is relative, what is absolute for the bosses is the right of their state to take any action that is necessary for the survival of their system.
The only remedy for this situation is not the court of appeal, but a socialist revolution to smash the capitalist state and overthrow capitalism.