Former FBI Director Louis J. Freeh says $2 billion that flowed from a British arms manufacturer to U.S. bank accounts controlled by Prince Bandar bin Sultan, then Saudi ambassador to the U.S., was not a bribe, but was instead part of a complex barter involving the exchange of Saudi oil for British fighter jets.
The transfer of funds to accounts at Riggs Bank in Washington, D.C., has come under scrutiny as the Justice Department continues an international corruption investigation involving British arms manufacturer BAE Systems. Freeh, who is now a lawyer and consultant for Bandar, made his comments to the Public Broadcasting Service for a “Frontline” documentary to be broadcast this evening. Bandar is now a national security advisor to the Saudi king. He has denied any wrongdoing, as have other Saudi officials…
The British government has halted its own corruption investigation into the BAE contract. At the time it terminated the probe, there were published allegations that the Saudis were threatening to stop cooperating on counter-terrorism matters if the investigation continued. In the statement issued Monday, Freeh’s office said that “the claim that Prince Bandar attempted to interfere” with the British investigation is “refuted by the facts.”
Richard Clarke, a top counter-terrorism advisor to Presidents Clinton and George W. Bush, and others said they have concerns about Freeh’s defense of Bandar. “Someone who characterizes himself as a U.S. patriot and national security advocate ought not to be on the side of someone blackmailing people not to investigate crimes by threatening to withdraw a nation’s cooperation against terrorists,” Clarke said.