Jim Prior’s Double-Speak

One of the first high-profile protagonists in this saga from whom I sought comment was Jim (Lord) Prior, back in 1996. He was at that time Chairman of GEC (UK). Jim had been Margaret Thatcher’s first Secretary of Employment, and a leading ‘wet’ – if any of you out there remember that phrase from the grave!

My odyssey through the back-corridors of arms corruption in Westminster and Whitehall brought me, of all places, to a strange Italian bank, with a branch in Atlanta, Georgia – the Banco Nazionale del Lavoro (BNL).

In 1993, the manager of that branch, one Christopher Drogoul, was convicted of running a fraudulent scheme, under which he had illegally loaned some $5 billion to both US and UK companies, allowing them to export dual-use technology to Iraq, for the latter to use for military purposes – in both of the Gulf Wars in which US and UK military personnel lost their lives.

I spoke with Chris in 1996. He confirmed that he knew the name ‘Simmonds,’ and recalled it in connection with a deal in 1986 to sell GEC (UK) engines to Iraq – which deal BNL had financed with a Letter of Credit, issued to the Central Bank of Iraq, in the sum of $28 million.

My source in Israeli Intelligence confirmed that same deal to me. He stated that the engines were to be used to extend the range of Iraq’s Scud-B missiles. And that it was his understanding that, once Simmonds had laundered the proceeds, the ultimate beneficiary of the deal would be the Thatcher family. He would be no more specific than that.

I wrote to Jim Prior asking for his comments. His reply was a model of the dissemble which helped both to build the largest Empire the world had ever known – and then to lose it (along with the Ashes…).

It was a very short letter. The first paragraph stated that Jim thought it highly unlikely that there would be such a deal involving GEC (UK) engines. Mind you, he didn’t outright deny it.

But bless him, he then went on to conclude by saying that he could remember meeting Simmonds on a couple of occasions…

I still can not help but wonder if we’re talking about meeting at the Henley-on-Thames Annual Ladies Knit ‘n Bar-B-Que – or when Jim, Hugh and the boys from dispatch were loading the warheads onto the back of the flatbed…?

Published in: on December 20, 2006 at 10:23 pm  Leave a Comment  

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