Case File

GPT and the Saudi National Guard

World Peace Foundation
Published on
September 17, 2021
(updated May 8, 2024)
Image Caption: Saudi security forces conducting a parade in November 2009. Image Source: Flickr/Creative Commons, Al Jazeera English.







Investigations into corruption in a contract awarded to GPT Special Project Management for supplying communication equipment to the Saudi Arabian National Guard (known as the SANGCOM deal) have uncovered a startling claim. It has been alleged that the British Ministry of Defence (MoD) not only sanctioned the payments but also, following a halt in GPT's operations due to a UK Serious Fraud Office inquiry, might have participated in funneling funds to the head of the Saudi National Guard through a different entity.

The initial corruption allegations came to light when, in 2010, a GPT Programme Director in Saudi Arabia, Lt. Col. (retd.) Ian Foxley, stumbled upon a chain of emails between a GPT financial controller, Michael Paterson, and his superiors, raising concerns about improper payments and gifts—concerns that were consistently dismissed at all levels of management. When Foxley brought the information to the UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) team working on the SANGCOM project, superiors at GPT threatened him with arrest for theft of company documents. He took refuge with friends in the MoD, who drove him to the airport that night to escape Saudi Arabia. The information provided by Foxley triggered a Serious Fraud Office investigation.

Case Details

Case details

Seller country
United Kingdom
Buyer country
Saudi Arabia
Goods category
Services, Electronics
Equipment sold
Communications and computer equipment and support, consulting, and training.
Deal value
£400 million (first contract only)
Sum involved in corruption
£60m (probably higher)
Start year
Outcome status
Out of Court Settlement, Trial Closed - Convictions, Legal Investigation Ongoing, Mixed



  • GPT Special Project Management - Contractor providing communications equipment and services to the Saudi Royal National Guard; Today a subsidiary of Airbus; Convicted of Corruption in 2021.

  • Michael Paterson – GPT Financial Controller; whistleblower.

  • Lieutenant Colonel (retd.) Ian Foxley – Retired UK signals officer, GPT Programme Director (June-December 2010); whistleblower.

  • Malcolm Peto – CEO of Paradigm Services, immediate parent company of GPT.

  • Jeff Cook – GPT Managing Director and former MoD employee. Charged with corruption by the UK Serious Fraud Office, partially acquitted, convicted on parts of the charges.

  • Philip Troyas – Astrium/Airbus Space & Defense Compliance Officer.

  • John Mason - Financial Officer of offshore companies Simec and Duranton, subcontractors to GPT: Charged with Corruption by the UK Serious Fraud office, acquitted.

  • Simec - GPT subcontractor; Used to make payments from GPT to ABTSS, and ultimately allegedly Prince Miteb Al Saud.

  • Duranton - Registered company in the Cayman Islands. Alleged funds funnelled through offshore entities before being paid to Saudi officials

  • Arab Builders for Telecommunications and Security Services (ABTSS) - Company belonging to Lebanese businessman Salah Fustok; Alleged conduit for bribes via SIMEC to Prince Miteb bin Abdullah.

  • Major General Mohammed bin Khalid al-Nahid – Commander of the Saudi National Guard, recipient of a luxury car from GPT, and owner of a villa for which GPT paid five years of up-front rent.

  • Miteb bin Abdullah Al Saud - Head of the Saudi National Guard 2010-2013, Minister of the National Guard 2013-2017; Alleged ultimate recipient of payments from GPT through linked companies, and later possibly the MoD through linked companies.

  • UK Ministry of Defence - UK government agency; Made payments of GBP 8 million to a company under instruction from Saudi Prince Miteb that was later revealed to be a conduit for secret payments to Prince Miteb.


Summary of Corruption Allegations


Whistleblowers Michael Paterson, GPT’s Financial Controller from 2007 to 2010, and Lt. Col. (retd.) Ian Foxley, who was GPT’s Programme Director from June to December 2010, uncovered evidence of irregular payments for “bought-in services” amounting to GBP 14.9 million between 2007 and 2010. These funds were channeled through two Cayman Islands-registered companies, Simec and Duranton, which they suspected were intended for bribes to Saudi decision-makers in relation to the SANGCOM contract. No legitimate services appear to have been provided by these companies.

In addition, GPT supplied luxury vehicles worth GBP 216,350 to staff in the Saudi National Guard, including the general connected with the project. They also paid this general GBP 278,000 for a five-year lease of a villa belonging to him, paid up-front.

Beyond these specific sums, Paterson and Foxley noted that in total GPT was paying GBP 26 million a year for “bought-in services” under the SANGCOM deals, up to 16% of the contract’s value.

Declassified MoD documents from the 1970s, discovered by author Nicholas Gilby, show that, for the first SANGCOM contract in 1978, worth GBP 400 million, a total of 15% of the contract’s value (GBP 60 million) was to be paid in “commissions” through various intermediaries. The head of defense sales at the MoD at the time, Lester Suffield, commented in a draft memo that the commissions “although described as ‘technical consultancy’ amount in practice to the exertion of influence to sway decisions in favour of the client.”

The UK Serious Fraud Office traced more than GBP 9 million in payments from GPT to Simec, to Saudi fixers, to Miteb bin Abdullah, the head of the Saudi National Guard, and his associates. Payments were alleged to have been made from Simec to ABTSS, and ultimately to, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, head of the Saudi National Guard. In March 2024, John Mason and Jeffrey Cook were acquitted of wrongdoing in a jury trial, after admitting to the payments. The defence rested on the argument that the payments had been authorized by the Saudi and British governments. Simec director John Mason’s lawyers argued that the arrangement had been laid out by a Ministry of Defence (MoD) official in 1994. In total, the defence alleged that British officials, politicians and diplomats knew about and consented to nearly GBP 60 million worth of bribes to Saudi Arabia since 1978.

In the course of the trial, it was also revealed that, after GPT came under investigation from the Serious Fraud Office in 2011, alternate arrangements were made. Prince Miteb directed the UK Ministry of Defence in 2014 to sign an GBP 8 million contract with the company ABTSS, the company later identified as a conduit for payments to Prince Miteb from GPT to Simec to Prince Miteb. Documents presented in the court suggest government officials were aware that the company was owned by the Fuskos family, a family close to the Saudi Royals since the 1950s. Officials further told the court that by the time the MoD agreed to the deal, Miteb was suspected or rumoured to be benefiting from corruption.

Jeff Cook was convicted on a separate charge for having misused his role an MoD employee seconded to defence contractor Paradigm (owned by Airbus) to commission reports for GBP 700,000 on the SANGCOM project with ME Consultants Ltd, whose principal shareholder was also a director at Simec. Cook received at least 10% of this sum as a kickback, in the form of cash and cars.



  • The SANGCOM program for UK communications support to the Saudi National Guard began with a Memorandum of Understanding, which led to a series of government-to-government agreements. he UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) has been directly involved in SANGCOM from the beginning, and has a permanent team of 50-70 military and civilian personnel in Saudi Arabia working on the project, providing procurement and training support, and overseeing the contract.
  • GPT Special Project Management was established to act as a private sector prime contractor to the MOD for the project.
  • According to Simec officer John Mason’s lawyers, a UK MoD laid out an arrangement in which the Saudis would be paid through an intermediary.
  • Initially, GPT was a subsidiary of GEC Marconi, but became part of EADS (now Airbus). The UK MoD is its sole customer, and SANGCOM its sole work. Thus, the MoD and GPT essentially act as the joint providers of SANGCOM, and their Saudi teams are closely intertwined and work from the same offices. The total value of the SANGCOM contracts agreed from 1978 to the present is estimated by whistleblower Ian Foxley at GBP 5 billion.
  • FebThe latest phase of the program was set up in a agreement, the LOA3 (“Letter of Offer and Acceptance 3”) Phase 3, and provides for the further modernization of the National Guard’s communications and computer equipment at a price of GBP 1.96 billion over ten years.


Investigation Outcomes

  • GPT Financial Controller Michael Paterson first became concerned about unexplained payments for bought-in services shortly after his appointment. He raised his concerns first with his immediate superiors in GPT, then subsequently with compliance officers and other senior figures in GPT’s parent companies: its immediate parent Paradigm Services Ltd., then EADS Astrium (now part of Airbus Defence), and subsequently Airbus Group. His concerns were ignored by his superiors, and Paterson was severely reprimanded for his objections by Paradigm CEO Malcolm Peto. Among those signing off on invoice payments to Simec and Duranton, as discovered by Paterson, were Peto and GPT managing director Jeff Cook.
  • Internal auditors were sent by EADS to Riyadh, but Paterson was not allowed to meet with them or give them documents. While some of his correspondents at higher levels of EADS appeared responsive, no action was taken to investigate or halt the suspect payments. Paterson was threatened with disciplinary action, and even physical harm, by GPT compliance officer Philip Troyas. Paterson secretly recorded in 2009 a conversation with Troyas, who essentially admitted to and justified the paying of bribes to Saudi leaders.
  • NovPaterson was placed on “gardening leave” (paid leave) prior to being moved to another post. However, by this time Foxley, recently appointed as program director for LOA3 Phase 3, had also started questioning the payments for unexplained ‘bought-in services,’ and met with Paterson while the latter was on leave. Foxley persuaded a GPT IT employee to give him access to Paterson’s emails, discovering the long chain of communication between Paterson and various levels of the EADS hierarchy, and brought the matter to the attention of the head of delivery of the MoD SANGCOM team. Foxley was then summoned to a meeting with GPT Managing Director Jeff Cook, who threatened him with arrest for “stealing company property.” Foxley took refuge with colleagues in the SANGCOM military team, one of whom drove him to Riyadh airport that night to escape the country. On his return to the UK, Foxley submitted his information to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
  • MayThe SFO revealed that they were looking into allegations against GPT.
  • AugThe SFO formally launched a criminal investigation.
  • JulThey arrested and questioned six individuals in connection with the case, including two current and two former GPT employees.
  • FebIn February 2017 they informed two of those arrested, Laurence Bryant, former CFO of GPT, and Richard Moody, former commercial director, that charges were no longer being pursued against them.
  • JanAirbus entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement with the SFO, agreeing to pay EUR 991 million in fines and costs to the UK. This agreement, however, did not preclude further legal action related to GPT.
  • JulThe SFO brought charges against GPT and a former executive: Jeffrey Cook, a former managing director. Two employees of contractors connected to the case, John Mason and Terence Dorothy, also face charges. Cook and Mason were charged with corruption related to the GPT contracts, while Cook also faces an additional charge of misconduct in public office; Dorothy allegedly abetted Cook in the latter offense. An important question which may affect the possibility of a successful prosecution, is the extent to which the MoD knew of and/or approved the suspect payments for ‘bought-in services.’ The claim that GPT employees were acting with the knowledge and consent of the UK government could potentially be used as a defense against corruption charges, although this is legally uncertain.
  • 28 AprGPT pleaded guilty to corruption before the British Southwark Crown Court. The company was ordered to pay a confiscation order of £20,603,000, fine of £7,521,920, and costs of £2,200,000.
  • MayIn May 2022, two British executives involved in the corruption allegations were brought to trial. The jury was dismissed abruptly on July 14, 2022, and a new trial is possible in the future.
  • 6 MarCook and Mason are acquitted of charges relating to the GPT contracts after admitting payments had taken place but successfully claiming no responsibility. Pas payments were allegedly authorized by the UK MoD. Cook is still convicted of misuse of public office and receiving kickbacks.
  • 7 MarThe Guardian reports from the trial of Cook and Mason, revealing “Project Arrow”, an GBP 8 million contract between the UK MoD and the company ABTSS as officials claimed Prince Miteb, whose associates own the company and who directed the MoD to enter into the contract, was already rumoured to be benefitting from corruption. In court, the MoD official who had received the instructions for Project Arrow denied that the project had been set up to enable payments to the Saudi National Guard.