Serious Fraud Office prepares to act on BAE Systems bribery allegations

THE SERIOUS Fraud Office (SFO) is poised to bring criminal charges against BAE Systems as soon as today if the defence giant fails to accept a plea deal that would leave it with a conviction and a large fine.<br /><br />The SFO will call on attorney general Baroness Scotland to launch a criminal prosecution against the arms company unless a deal is struck, it is understood.<br /><br />If BAE were to accept the plea deal, it could see its stream of government contract work cut, but if criminal proceedings take place the consequences are likely be much more serious for the company.<br /><br />The corruption investigation centres on work BAE has done for countries including the Czech Republic, Romania, Tanzania and South Africa.<br /><br />BAE was first accused of bribery and corruption in the 1980s, over an arms deal with Saudi Arabia.<br /><br />That probe was later dropped when in 2006 the then Prime Minister Tony Blair intervened, citing national security concerns.<br /><br />BAE Systems has always denied the charges.