eurofighter typhoon 224 .
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Saudi Arabia has signed a 4.43 billion British pound (US$8.84 billion) agreement with Britain to buy 72 Eurofighter Typhoon jets from BAE Systems PLC, the Saudi Press Agency reported Monday.
The announcement, which quoted an unnamed Saudi Defense Ministry official, said the deal was signed on Sept. 11, more than year after the sale was first agreed to in principal.
Britain's Ministry of Defense confirmed the deal, saying in a statement that it was part of a new defense cooperation program between the two countries called Project Salam, the word for peace in Arabic. The agreement also includes opportunities to train Saudi pilots and ground technicians in the UK, the statement said.
In an apparent move to quell concerns over allegations that BAE offered bribes in return for contracts, the Saudi news agency said Monday that the price of "each jet is the same as the price to be sold to the Royal British Air Force."
BAE, Europe's largest defense contractor, has been the subject of investigations in the UK and the US into its earlier dealings with Saudi Arabia.
The US Justice Department said this summer that it had opened an investigation into allegations that BAE had funneled money to Saudi Prince Bandar bin Sultan, a former ambassador to the US, to help win a US $86 billion weapons deal.
Bandar has denied that he profited from the aircraft deal negotiated in 1985. BAE also has denied allegations that it offered bribes in return for contracts.
The British government has called off its own investigation into BAE's weapons sales last year, citing security concerns. But Britain's Serious Fraud Office is continuing to examine BAE's weapons sales to a number of other countries following separate accusations that it paid kickbacks.
BAE denies wrongdoing and has asked Britain's former lord chief justice to lead a committee to review its policies and processes.