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Blind justice

Whistleblower who exposed corrupt payments of millions of pounds to Saudi officials by British defence company files legal claim over his treatment since bringing the scandal to light

A whistleblower who raised concerns that corrupt payments totalling many millions of pounds were being regularly paid to high-ranking Saudi officials to secure a huge defence deal for British defence company GPT Special Projects Management Limited (GPT) has filed a legal claim over his treatment since he went public with the exposé.

Posted on 03 April 2024

Retired Royal Signals Officer, Ian Foxley was a senior executive at GPT, part of the multinational Airbus aerospace group, when he discovered that substantial payments were being paid to offshore accounts linked to high-ranking Saudis for no apparent reason.

Lt Col (retd) Foxley escalated his concerns to senior officials at the Ministry of Defence (MOD), which he claims reported his disclosures to GPT without his knowledge or consent. On learning of his disclosures, GPT’s Managing Director and the HR Director (a senior Saudi Princess) allegedly threatened to have him thrown in jail in Riyadh. These threats caused Ian Foxley to flee Saudi Arabia in fear of his safety. After returning to London, his contract with GPT was terminated and he was subsequently unable to obtain employment in the Defence industry.

A subsequent investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) led to GPT pleading guilty in 2021 to an offence of corruption resulting in fines and confiscations totalling £28 million plus £2.2 million costs.

On Wednesday 6 March 2024 a jury acquitted two GPT employees of corruption offences after lawyers argued the payments had been authorised by the British and Saudi governments.

Picture of Ian Foxley
Picture of Ian Foxley

 

In sentencing remarks in April 2021, only made public after the employees’ acquittal, Mr Justice Bryan said, “From 1982 it was known in HMG that all major government contracts in KSA involved large percentages paid to middlemen on behalf of Saudi individuals… It was decided that taking care of Prince Mit’eb should be a priority for any company dealing with the SANG (Saudi Arabia National Guard). That information was shared at a senior level in UK Government.” 

On Thursday 28 March Lt Col Foxley filed a legal claim against the MOD, the Department for Business and Trade and GPT over the corruption and his treatment as a whistleblower since he raised his concerns. 

Lt Col Foxley said:

“This claim is partly to settle accounts for my betrayal as a confidential whistleblower acting in good faith to report significant corruption and wrongdoing. It notes the guilty plea of the commercial entities and the proven complicity of government departments.  I trust that the courts will recognise that whistleblowers suffer greatly for their integrity and courage and deserve to be properly compensated for the sore effect it has had upon their own and their families’ lives.”

Leigh Day partner Paul Dowling said: 

“Lt Col Foxley’s brave and unwavering pursuit of the truth, despite being repeatedly told his allegations were unfounded, has led to the exposure of a shocking, high level scheme of corruption implicating the UK Government, and resulting in £28 million in fines. The impact on him personally, however, has been devastating and has caused him immense financial and psychological harm. GPT and the Government have left Lt Col Foxley no choice but to issue a civil claim in order to obtain a remedy for the damage he has suffered.” 

Lt Col Foxley is supported in his legal action by Spotlight on Corruption. Executive Director Susan Hawley said:

“Without Ian's whistleblowing, GPT would never have been investigated for making corrupt payments, let alone forced to pay criminal penalties of £28 million. The judge in the case against two individuals for corrupt payments specifically flagged that Ian's whistleblowing prevented £170 million worth of bribes being paid. If the UK is serious about protecting whistleblowers and encouraging more to come forward it should take note of this landmark claim, and do the right thing by compensating Ian and establishing a proper mechanism for compensating whistleblowers in general.”

Profile
Paul Dowling November 2021
Corporate accountability Corruption Human rights international Whistleblowing

Paul Dowling

Paul is a specialist international human rights lawyer

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