Detroit suburb takes on military contractor over alleged $2B paid to Saudi prince

My NPR colleague JJ Sutherland recently filed this story about how a quiet Detroit suburb took on a giant military contractor in a legal battle that involved a massive arms deal, British fighter jets, a Saudi prince and billions of dollars in payments to a longtime ambassador to the United States.
Harper Woods, Mich., has filed a lawsuit against a massive defense contractor, BAE Systems, over allegations that the company funneled payments to a member of the Saudi royal family.

In the process, this small city has become a central player in an investigation that spans continents, involves accusations of corruption on an unimaginable scale, and has players ranging from former British Prime Minister Tony Blair to a substitute teacher.

Pictured above, Prince Bandar bin Sultan bin Abdul Aziz al-Saud, the man Harper Woods, Mich., alleges BAE Systems paid $2 billion over a period of about 20 years to win a fighter-jet contract.

Link to text overview and audio, and documents related to a corporate ethics investigation of BAE.


  1. “corruption on an unimaginable scale.” I dunno, I can imagine a lot. And that isn’t even taking into consideration the corruption that the city’s mayor is guilty of.

  2. Interesting that they are suing British Aerospace Systems rather than one of the home grown corruption mongers like Lockheed Martin or Halliburton. Not that I think what BAE or the Saudis did should go unpunished, I just think it is a bit rich to push for sanctions against them when it will inevitably benefit American arms traders.

  3. Wow, I was almost going to work for BAE. Well… not really, but they asked me to apply…

    Odds that trying a case involving companies with untold billions and high-level politicians will actually succeed in finding any high-level perps guilty? I’d say 10,000 to 1.

  4. Fantastic that this city is prepared to take these guys on where the UK governmant isn’t (for obvious reasons – 3 governments, including Blair’s are complicit in the whole deal and helped facilitate funnelling the money).

    I really hope it comes to something, but I suspect as ling ass Dubya’s there, strings will be pulled so that it won’t.

    When Blair and Bush were together at the last G8, Blair was asked by a journalist about his shutting doen the investigation. Both Bush and Blair looked totally embarassed, exchanged glances, sniggered like schoolboys, then Bush said “I’m real glad I don’t have to answer that question”. Their squirming really was a sight to behold. Afraid I can’t find it on YouTube, but there’s always this:

    Yours respectfully,


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