Sunday 13 May 2007

Sunday Papers Roundup (2)

A brief Business roundup: dodgy business-political connections feature large this week

The Observer reports on fallout from the BAe affair, continuing to dog the company despite Blair’s disgraceful efforts to hush the whole thing up. Execs of its US affiliate are likely to face questioning by powerful Congressional committees in Washington over the allegations that the company bribed foreign officials in pursuit of arms deals – just when it is hoping it can pull off a £2.1bn bid for the US Armor Group, maker of armour (sic) for the Humvee military vehicles.

If Blair seriously thought he could draw a line unilaterally under this, he was being very badly advised (or operating in self-delusion mode). The international arms trade is a cut-throat business and his old mate Bush will cheerfully capitalise on the scandal.

On its front page rather than in the Business section, the Sunday Telegraph reports that Hilary Benn holds a £233,000 stake in a company that does work for his Whitehall department - a major blow to his political future”, they suggest, and “a significant problem for Mr Brown, who has pledged a new Ministerial Code”.

Not sure about the latter: but in the Deputy Leadership contest it could well be enough to swing a few votes that Benn can ill-afford to lose. (Wonder what shares Blears owns ...?)

The Sunday Times reports that the "highly controversial" Russian conglomerate Alfa Group has recruited a Tory ex-foreign secretary (Hurd); a former British ambassador to Moscow; a man credited with having helped to build one of Britain’s most high-profile companies; the former chief executive of a leading European telecoms equipment manufacturer; plus a couple of well-connected Washington insiders, to adorn their corporate letterhead.

If they’d like to do some more investigative work they’d find several other equally ‘interesting’ Russian companies that also have some surprising UK non-execs in tow …

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