Spain: Hefty Sentences Sought for Graft in Saudi Arms Deals

Spanish prosecutors are seeking decades-long sentences for eight individuals suspected of having bribed Saudi officials to get contracts to export weapons, as part of an investigation into corruption that had been going on for 25 years, El Mundo reported.  

Fiscalía General del EstadoSpanish anti-corruption officers look to punish those involved in the decades-long corruption scandal between a Spanish weapons manufacturer and Saudi officials (photo credit: CC by AlonsoMartinez)Charges indicate that well over US$100 million in bribes were paid by the now dissolved state-owned weapons manufacturer Defex to various Saudi dignitaries.  

The decade-long investigation is seen as Spain’s largest corruption scandal ever. 

Anti-corruption prosecutors said that they are seeking jail sentences of up to 29 years for those involved, and millions in fines for their four corporate entities. Defex alone is supposed to pay over $50 million.

 José Ignacio Encinas Charro, the president of the publicly owned company until 2013, is one of the individuals prosecutors are seeking to put behind bars.   

A 2018 El Mundo investigation showed how those representing Defex would ask for ‘wine’ as a code word for bribes that would be paid to Swiss frontmen, who would then issue these bribes to Saudi officials that would reward the company with defence contracts.  

Authorities investigated 11 contracts between Defex and Saudi Arabia, many of which were for ammunition and spare parts, and noticed that the bribes were paid to accounts in Switzerland, Liechtenstein, The Virgin Islands, Panama, The Bahamas, The Isle of Man, The Cayman Islands, Delaware, and Saudi Arabia itself.  

Defex was a semi-public company that had been in the arms export business since 1972. The Spanish state owned 51% of the company and its board of directors consisted of Spanish ministers of defence, finance, foreign affairs, and economy.  

Now that the Saudi portion of the investigation has been concluded, anti-corruption prosecutors will focus on other allegations against the disbanded Spanish defence company, which include bribery in Egypt, Cameroon, Angola and Brazil.