Conservative Party faces investigation over controversial donations from Said family

The Electoral Commission is investigating tens of thousands of pounds the Conservative Party has received from the Said family, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Wafic Said was a key figure in the highly controversial Al-Yamamah arms deal between Saudi Arabia and the UK. Allegations of corruption surrounding the deal were being investigated by staff at Britain’s Serious Fraud Office – until they were ordered to drop the investigation because it was supposedly against the national interest. Tough on crime? Only when it suits.

Although the Liberal Democrats – and Norman Lamb in particular – have been vocal in their criticisms of the Government’s decision to decide that arms deals corruption is a crime which doesn’t merit prosecuting, the Conservative Party has been noticeably silent through the controversy – despite normally being extremely averse to let pass an opportunity to criticise Labour over crime.

In part this may be because of the Conservative Party’s embarrassment at the deal having been signed when they were in power (and hence any initial corruption having taken place on their watch) but there have also been suspicions that the close links, including financial, between the Conservative Party and one of the key people in the deal have held the party back from daring to speak out.

As ConservativeHome put it in 2007:

The Conservatives, unlike the LibDems, have been as quiet on the recent stories about Prince Bandar’s role in the Saudi arms deals (known as Al-Yamamah, “the dove”), and the alleged cover-up by Lord Goldsmith, as they were when the Serious Fraud Office’s investigation was dropped (it was about to uncover what we’re starting to find out now)…

There’s also the allegations that Oxfordshire businessman and prominent Al-Yamamah middleman, Wafic Said, has donated money to David Cameron (possibly up to £550, 000 through auctions). Cameron spoke in support of an International Arms Trade Treaty over a year ago but didn’t question any existing British contracts … there is no question that [Saudi Arabia] fails Cameron’s “unsuitable regime” yardstick.

But back to the present day. This is what the Daily Telegraph has to say:

The daughter and wife of Wafic Said, a Syrian-born millionaire who lives in Monaco, have given tens of thousands of pounds to the Conservatives in recent years.

The Electoral Commission has confirmed that it had begun a “preliminary inquiry” into the donations after receiving a complaint from a Labour MP last year.

The Commission is studying whether the Conservatives have broken electoral rules. Under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act of 2000, a person giving money to a party on behalf of someone else must be declared to the Electoral Commission.