AMSTERDAM – The media storm is building in the United Kingdom and Europe over allegations that British Petroleum (BP) pressured the Scottish government to release one of the terrorists convicted in the bombing of Pan-Am flight 103, en route from London’s Heathrow Airport to New York which fell from the skies over Lockerbie, Scotland in December, 1988.
The London Telegraph reports that convicted terrorist Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi’s release more than a year ago from the Scottish jail where he was being held after being convicted of the bombing in Scottish court, might have been the handiwork of BP and the British government, eager to curry favor with Libyan dictator Muammar al-Gaddafi in the awarding of lucrative oil contracts in that country.
Megrahi was returned to Tripoli, Libya, where he was hailed as a hero by the Libyan media, and is said to have received up to 30,000 people a day in temporary tents set up near his home upon his return.
He has lived more than a year longer than Scottish doctors claimed that he had remaining after being diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer. He was the only person convicted of the bombing in 1988.
Shortly thereafer, BP was awarded a $900,000,000 contract which it had been lobbying with the Libyan government for at least three years prior. That deal will now go online within the next few weeks.
The release by Scottish authorities may have been as a result of pressure applied by a Libyan front company and BP lobbying both the British and the Scottish government for his release.
The Telegraph reports that Dalia Advisory Limited, a front company for the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA) set up shop just down the street from the United States Embassy in London shortly after it was announced that Scotland might consider release of Megrahi on humanitarian grounds.
BP, largely because of Scotland’s conviction of Megrahi, has been blacklisted by Gaddafi from hundreds of millions of dollars in oil contracts with the Libyan government that other large oil producers from the United States and other nations have been able to land.
BP, already politically scuttled by the largest oil spill in United States history that one of its deep water drilling rigs unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico, looks to be facing both a Tropical storm and a political hurricane in the U.S. over its alleged involvement in the release of Megrahi.
In a letter to Chairman of the powerful U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, John Kerry, British foreign secretary William Haig said that the decision was “wrong and misguided.” He did go on to affirm that it was “legal and proper” as was BP’s lobbying for the release of Megrahi which began officially in 2007.
The Foreign Relations Committee has decided to probe into the matter and have called for special hearings. The only problem is that many of those who would need to testify, including Scottish first minister Alex Salmond, the official British fall guy for this transfer, have informed Kerry or the Committee that they will not attend, nor will any of the people who might have been involved on behalf of the Scottish government.
BP is sending representatives, but not embattled BP CEO Tony Hayward, whose presence was requested, or former MI6 officer Sir Mark Allen who brokered the deal to release Megrahi between Libya and the British government.
The British government is taking the position that this is an internal Scottish matter out of their control.
Nonetheless the buck is clearly stopping at the door of No. 10 Downing Street. Even though this all occurred during prime minister Gordon Brown’s watch, David Cameron’s first official visit to the US as Prime Minister is being tarnished by the controversy rising out of BP’s ties to the release of a terrorist who was convicted of killing 243 passengers and 16 in crew, 190 of whom were American citizens.
The Clipper Maid of the Seas, a Pan American Airways Boeing 747-121, was destroyed in December, 1988 by a bomb killing all aboard, along with 11 people from Lockerbie who were killed by the falling debris.
Megrahi was convicted thirteen years later, in January of 2001, for his involvement in the bombing. He was sentenced to life imprisonment in Scotland. His co-defendant, Lamin Khalifah Fhimah, was unanimously acquitted.
BP, facing mounting claims that it is not handling damage payments for the massive spill that effects hundreds of thousands of people and thousands of businesses, is likely to face significant wrath from both the Senate and the Obama White House if the controversy over their involvement in Megrahi’s release intensifies.