A confidential embassy cable released by Wikileaks has revealed how Prince Andrew swore at an embassy brunch in Kyrgizstan about the activities of Guardian journalists investigating BAE systems.
The Prince made his comments in 2008 at a brunch with US ambassador Tatiana Gfoeller and British businessmen ahead of a lunch meeting he would later attend with the prime minister of the Central Asian state.
In 2007, Guardian journalists David Leigh and Rob Evans carried out a major investigation which revealed that BAE systems had paid bribes totalling hundreds of millions of punds to Saudi officials.
The cable states: “The Prince was in Kyrgyzstan to promote British economic interests. Originally scheduled to last an hour over brunch, the briefing ended up lasting two hours, thanks to the super-engaged Prince’s pointed questions.”
The detailed account of the brunch reveals that the business representatives “plunged into describing what they see as the appallingly high state of corruption in the Kyrgyz economy”.
Adding: “While claiming that all of them never participated in it and never gave out bribes, one representative of a middle-sized company stated that ‘It is sometimes an awful temptation’.”
On the “general issue of promoting British economic interests abroad”, the cable notes that Andrew “railed at British anti-corruption investigators, who had had the ‘idiocy’ of almost scuttling the Al-Yamama deal with Saudi Arabia”.
The cable states: “His mother’s subjects seated around the table roared their approval.”
This was a reference to the investigation into bribes allegedly given by BAE systems to Saudi officials in order to secure a deal said to be worth up to £40bn over two decades to provide equipment and training to Saudi security forces. The Serious Fraud Office probe into the allegations was dropped in 2006.
The cable goes on to report Andrew’s comments about the Guardian: “‘these (expletive) journalists, especially from the National Guardian, who poke their noses everywhere’ and (presumably) make it harder for British businessmen to do business…
“The crowd practically clapped. He then capped this off with a zinger: castigating ‘our stupid (sic) British and American governments which plan at best for ten years whereas people in this part of the world plan for centuries’.”
The Ambassador notes that after the brunch, one of the British businessmen present said: “What a wonderful representative for the British people. We could not be prouder of our royal family.”
Wikileaks yesterday released some 250,000 documents detailing confidential US embassy cables. The Guardian was given advance sight of the documents which were also seen by the New York Times, Der Spiegel, Le Monde and El Pais.