Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Black Money and Terrorism Blackmail

After "Syriana" and all those heavy-breathing movies about oil, money and corruption, the most horrific Mideast drama of all is on PBS' Frontline this week as it documents the story of Saudi Arabia's Prince Bandar and the British arms company BAE that culminated in the blackmailing of former prime minister Tony Blair with threats over terrorism to stop investigating billions of dollars in bribes.

What's most discouraging is that this story is not new. Testimony in a London court over a year ago led a judge to conclude that Blair "rolled over" for Bandar "just as if a gun had been held to the head" of the government.

The Saudi Prince threatened to hold back information on terrorists and suicide bombers that would lead to the loss of "British lives on British streets" if Blair's investigators kept looking into charges that he took $2 billion of bribes in arms deals with the British company BAE. They stopped.

Now Frontline is telling the Bandar-BAE story from its roots in the Margaret Thatcher era to the present day when only the US Justice Department is doggedly pursuing charges of massive criminal corruption by the Bush family's Saudi friend who liked to call himself "Bandar Bush."

The details add up to souped-up penthouse porn with "black money" paying for fast cars, loose women, shopping sprees and a private jet decorated with the colors of Bandar's favorite team, the Dallas Cowboys.

For movie buffs, an added frisson is that the documentary is the work of Lowell Bergman, played by Al Pacino a decade ago in "The Insider," about his misadventures as a 60 Minutes producer trying to get the story of Big Tobacco's misdeeds on the air.

But Americans are still smoking and the Saudis are still raking in huge bribes. Truth may out, but does anybody care?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

They weren't the only threats the Saudis made. Of as great importance to the UK government was the much-earlier-announced intention to withdraw a multi-billion pound arms contract and place it elsewhere if the inquiry continued.

Britain's Islamist threat comes predominantly from Pakistan. It was my belief that the Saudis usally provide funding to terrorist groups. But even here, they've been knocking noses with the Iranians, keen to spread their influence in Afghanistan beyond the Herat region.

I don't believe for one moment that there has been any concerted effort to persuade well-off Saudis to desist from funding extremists organisations, and nor will there be all the while the Sauds have to lok over their shoulders at the Wahabbis.