Anti-corruption campaigners have secured an injunction from the High Court delaying a plea bargain between arms giant BAE and the Serious Fraud Office from going ahead.
The court granted the injunction late on Wednesday prohibiting the director of the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) from taking any further steps in its plea bargain settlement with BAE Systems.
Under the plea bargain, BAE pleaded guilty to "accounting irregularities" with regard to its 1999 deal to sell a radar system to the Tanzanian government. The arms giant agreed to pay Â£30 million in fines.
As part of the settlement, the SFO agreed not to bring prosecutions relating to alleged corruption in a number of other countries including the Czech Republic, South Africa and Romania.
The SFO also agreed to drop charges against BAE agent Count Alfons Mendorff-Pouilly who was facing prosecution on charges of conspiracy to corrupt in connection with BAE deals in eastern and central Europe.
Last month, Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) and The Corner House sought an injunction and a judicial review of the deal.
The groups contend that the settlement is unlawful as the SFO did not follow the correct prosecution guidance regarding plea bargains.
They further argue that the deal would allow BAE to evade justice on a number of serious charges of corruption and effectively bury the evidence of wrongdoing.
Lawyers acting for The Corner House and CAAT formally lodged papers seeking judicial review permission on February 26, together with a request for the injunction.
The interim order will remain in force until the court has decided whether or not to grant a judicial review of the settlement, which is expected later this month.
CAAT spokeswoman Kaye Stearman described the ruling as highly significant and an important step towards justice.
"This challenge by CAAT and The Corner House has aroused interest around the world. The ramifications go well beyond the UK to BAE activities in many countries and the outcome will affect investigations in other jurisdictions," she said.
BAE has faced numerous allegations of corruption and bribery over the last 25 years.
In 2006 the SFO dropped its corruption investigation into BAE's multibillion-pound al-Yamamah deal with the Saudi regime following the intervention of then prime minister Tony Blair.
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