Peter Gardiner

Peter Gardiner

Sector: 
Defence
How I became a Whistleblower: 

Following management positions in the travel and airline industry, I formed my own corporate travel agency, Travellers World (TWL) in 1981. My clients included senior members of the Saudi Royal family, who ordered and paid personally for their travel.

In 1989 BAE approached me and asked me to continue providing travel and related services to the Saudis but in future to invoice BAE direct as part of the Al-Yamamah defence contract. Apart from travel we now managed wire and cash payments, charters of private jets, property projects in London and Beverly Hills, security, limousine purchases and medical treatment, all part of a 24/7 high level concierge service.

Our lawyers and auditors deemed that all was legal.

In 2002 and some £65m later the law changed with the terrorism bill and two leading QCs advised that it would be illegal to continue. I informed BAE and withdrew, although they and the Saudis wished me to continue.

In 2003, the media had been suggesting that the £40bn Al-Yamamah programme was corrupt and was being investigated. I took legal advice and decided that I should go to the SFO. I also knew that I would sooner work with and have the media on my side, as once an erroneous story gets into the press it becomes an established truth and so I arranged to meet with David Leigh and Rob Evans of The Guardian, disclosed my story to them and gave them supporting evidence, they also agreed that I should go to the SFO and introduced me to an experienced lawyer.

What happened next: 

On the 6 April 2004 in the first of many interviews with the SFO, I gave them full access to TWL’s detailed document archive. A few days later the MoD police and two removal vans collected some 387 boxes of original company documents covering 1989-2002 and some £65m of invoices to BAE - a 1.5 million document paper trail.

I also learnt that there was no investigation taking place into BAE/Al-Yamamah.

These documents opened the door and in October 2004 a formal investigation was commenced, I assisted with the investigation until it was officially closed by Tony Blair in 2006, on grounds of 'national security' but not before billions of dollars in questionable payments had been uncovered. The SFO staff told me that they were 'gutted' and had been politically outgunned. I believed them.

Richard Alderman, the retiring SFO director, said in an Exaro interview in April 2012, when asked about the cancellation of the BAE/Al-Yamamah investigation by Tony Blair that: “the damage that was done by what happened was great and will last for a very long time, it was very regrettable and very unfortunate.”

In March 2007 I went to Paris and met with Professor Mark Pieth, chair of the OECD's Working Group on Bribery in International Business Transactions and provided him with my witness statement and related documents. I gave my permission for these to be given to the US Department of Justice/FBI with whom I met, over several days, in Washington in July 2007.

BAE employs 40,000 staff in the US on major defence contracts. On the 1 March 2010, at the conclusion of the DoJ/FBI investigation and unconstrained by issues of 'national security' , BAE was sentenced by US District Court Judge John D. Bates to pay a $400mn criminal fine.

Judge John Bates said the company's conduct involved "deception, duplicity and knowing violations of law, on an enormous scale".

In May 2011 BAE was fined $79m by the State Department for 2,591 alleged violations of International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

The Al-Yamamah case has often been described as the biggest and most corrupt defence contract in British history and its consequences still reverberate. BAE has never conceded that they were involved in international bribery and corruption and have only admitted to 'minor accounting irregularities'. Sir Richard Evans CBE, the ex-chairman of BAE when interviewed in June 2010, said of the allegations that BAE had a slush fund for bribing foreign officials:

"Looked at in hindsight, it's perfectly clear that the allegations could not be substantiated and weren't substantiated, and eventually in the US the issues were laid to accountancy issues and export licensing."

Allegations of corruption and several investigations involving BAE have taken place in Sweden, Austria, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, Switzerland, Chile, US, Saudi, Tanzania and South Africa, some of which continue.

What I do now: 

Personally I lost my marriage, my home, my business and severely damaged my health. I operate a number of travel and commercial websites and because of the continuing interest in the Al-Yamamah investigation, I undertake research for the media and independent writers. When I can, I advise whistleblowers.

Ideally I would like to publish the full BAE/Al-Yamamah story based on my personal experiences including material from my 1.5m document archive. I believed strongly in British justice and although I don’t regret going to the SFO, I do regret the consequences to my personal life and that justice was politically overridden.

I would like to see changes to the law to protect whistleblowers and for political interference in the justice system to be stopped.