PARIS --- The London newspaper The Guardian has published facsimiles of secret documents detailing the original “Al Yamamah” agreement of 1985 by which Britain agreed to sell Saudi Arabia 48 Tornado IDS attack aircraft, 24 Tornado ADV air-defence fighters, 30 Hawk jet trainers and 30 PC-9 turboprop trainers for £ 3.5-4 billion. In 1993, a second phase of the agreement covered the supply of 48 additional aircraft, and its total value since 1985, including spares, services and support is estimated to exceed £43 billion.
The newspaper notes that, as detailed in these documents, the price of the aircraft was substantially inflated to generate cash which, it says, was then paid to various intermediaries, including in Saudi Arabia. The Guardian says the amounts paid total over £ 600 million. All those involved have always denied allegations of improper payments, it notes.
The documents were provided, apparently by mistake, to the National Archives by Britain’s Department of Trade and Industry, and then recovered after they were discovered by a researcher from Campaign Against the Arms Trade.
The documents include:
- the original British-Saudi Memorandum of Understanding on the Al Yamamah contract;
- a telegram from Sir Colin Chandler, then head of the Defence Export Sales Organisation, from Ryad, to various government departments in London. It provides details of the deal, of the inflated prices, and of the negotiations;
- Minutes of meeting between then Defence Secretary Michael Heseltine and Prince Sultan, in September 1985.
- a briefing prepared by the Ministry of Defence for Margaret Thatcher for the Al-Yamamah deal, September 1985.
Click here to read the Guardian’s story accompanying the documents.