The Serious Fraud Office ("SFO") has announced it is opening an investigation into alleged incidents of bribery that were thought to have been dealt with in March this year. This is the third about-turn from the SFO this summer. The Director of the SFO, via a statement on the SFO website, stated that they have opened a criminal investigation into allegations of bribery concerning GPT Special Project Management, Ltd ("GPT") and aspects of the conduct of their business and the award of a £2 billion contract in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

GPT provide defence services to the Saudi Arabian National Guard and also offer training, maintenance services and operation support for the Saudi Arabian National Guard's nationwide communications network. GPT is a subsidiary of Paradigm Secure Communications Limited, which is ultimately owned by aerospace and defence specialists EADS.

The situation is potentially highly embarrassing to the UK Ministry of Defence ("MOD") as Paradigm has been providing highly sensitive defence services in the UK since 1999. It has been reported, elsewhere in the media, that the MOD originally endorsed GPT to do military work in Saudi Arabia.

David Green, the current Director of the SFO, was appointed in April of this year, replacing Richard Alderman. Green has been reviewing the SFO's case load, and the GPT case is the third case over the past four weeks to be opened that had been set aside or deemed not worthy of investigation by Green's predecessor. Criminal investigations have now been opened into the collapse of Weavering Capital and Green has formally accepted the potential manipulation of LIBOR (London Interbank Offered Rate) matter for investigation.

Earlier in the year it was reported that Lieutenant Colonel Ian Foxley, a former employee of GPT was allegedly sacked for reporting the incidents of bribery. Foxley had reported to the SFO that Saudi officials were given the gifts by middlemen, in order to secure a £2 billion contract for SPT. The turnaround comes after the SFO's reported position in March that it was satisfied that there was an ongoing internal investigation being carried out by GPT, and that GPT would in time provide the SFO with the results of that investigation.

As the alleged offences occurred prior to the coming into force of the Bribery Act 2010 any potential prosecutions will be brought under previous legislation that predates the Act. However this announcement sends the clear message that David Green is setting a new tough tone from the top at the SFO, and that we can reasonably expect to see further investigations and enforcement actions in the near future.