ARMS BRIBERY CLAIM: Court froze Swiss accounts in Saudi probe

BANK accounts linked to a Spanish defence company’s alleged paying off of the Saudi Arabian government to secure weapons were frozen by Swiss authorities last year after requests from investigators.
The National Court requested that four accounts, allegedly used by Defex to transfer money to Riyadh, be frozen as part of a long-running investigation into bribery claims. The request was made in 2017.
Details of the investigation were revealed last week in the wake of the fallout from the death of Jamal Khashoggi, a reporter critical of the Saudi regime, in Istanbul.
National Court Judge Jose de la Mata has been examining five sales agreed between Riyadh and Defex from 1992 to 2004. It is also looking into 11 contracts signed between 2005 and 2014, according to legal documents seen by Spanish media.
The defence company, partly owned by the Spanish government, obtained the 11 contracts through the paying of illegal commissions to officials with close ties to Saudi Arabia, investigators claimed.
One contract for the sale of military equipment was agreed for a price of €19.05 million. Investigators claimed the actual value of the material sold was €14.55 million, with the roughly €7.6 million difference going to a Saudi company.
Guardia Civil officers probing the case claimed deals worth a total of €60.7 were agreed in Saudi Arabia between Defex and a company named Peninsula Inc Ltd.
Police said documents linked to the deal included several invoices but no contracts with the company which is said to be based in the Cayman Islands.
Investigators also suspect a complex financial web was set up in order to channel funds between Defex and the Saudis. Judge de la Mata reportedly believes the system has been used since at least 1998.
Spain’s government, which had a 51 per cent stake in Defex, agreed to dissolve the company last year following revelations of its activities.
The company reportedly continues to operate to finish previously agreed contracts, with the SEPI holding firm refusing to clarify its current status.
The news comes as scrutiny of deals made between Spain, the United States and other Western countries with the Saudis continued this week.
Countries including Spain, Britain and the United States have faced pressure to halt weapons sales to the Saudis since the killing which some claim was ordered by Riyadh.

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Joe Gerrard

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