THE BLOG
12/23/2010 02:15 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Senate Report: BP Pushed For Release of Lockerbie Bomber To Protect Its Oil Deals

With so much happening legislatively this week and the holidays and all, even startling new Senate reports were somewhat overlooked. This one deserves attention, however.

On December 21, 2010, New Jersey Senators Menedez and Lautenberg and New York Senators Schumer and Gillibrand released a scathing new report called, Justice Undone: The Release of the Lockerbie Bomber. The report examines Scotland's August 20, 2009 release of Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al-Megrahi. Al-Megrahi is the Libyan national who was convicted of conspiracy to plant the bomb that brought down Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988 over Lockerbie, Scotland, killing 270 people.

Clearly, there was good reason to look into the release of this man. While officials claimed to be letting him out on "compassion" grounds, saying he had prostate cancer and three months to live, today almost 16 months later he's alive and living in a luxury villa in Tripoli. His release defied an agreement between the U.S. and U.K. requiring him to serve out his term in a Scottish prison. Indeed, the Senators found that the "three-month prognosis given to al-Megrahi by Scottish doctors was inaccurate and unsupported by medical science," and that "the Scottish Government simply intended to use compassionate release as political cover for returning al-Megrahi to Libya - regardless of whether his physical condition met the requirements."

Wow. What political cover might that be? Turns out that the U.K. pushed for his release because of heavy pressure by BP, which, at the time of al-Megrahi's release, was negotiating a $900 million oil exploration deal with Libya. The Senators wrote, "Signed in the presence of the Libyan and U.K. Prime Ministers and BP's chairman, Peter Sutherland, the agreement gave BP the rights to explore 54,000 sq km (21,000 sq miles) - both onshore near the city of Ghadames and offshore in the Gulf of Sirt." But BP told the U.K. that "keeping al-Megrahi in prison threatened this oil agreement, as well as other profitable trade deals and investments with Libya." So, "faced with the threat of losing the lucrative BP oil deal, the U.K. agreed to include al-Megrahi's release in a Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) with Libya."

Specifically, the Senate report found:

[I]n May 2007, the same month that BP signed its agreement with Libya, U.K. officials signed a memorandum of understanding with the Libyan government, calling for an agreement on the PTA to be completed within twelve months...

When negotiations stalled, BP began to express alarm that its oil deal might be jeopardized by the "slow progress" in finalizing the PTA. BP officials informed the U.K. Government that the continued delay "might have negative consequences for U.K. commercial interests, including ratification of BP's exploration agreement." In fact, BP lobbied Secretary Straw on three separate occasions between October and November 2007, regarding the delay in PTA negotiations. Two of these contacts involved BP consultant Sir Mark Allen, a former British Secret Intelligence Service MI6 officer who was intimately involved in the negotiations over Libya's WMD disarmament in 2003. The U.K. was on notice that its foreign policy stance threatened potential lucrative deals for one of its largest companies.

For these reasons, in December 2007, the U.K. Government bowed to BP pressure and dropped the exclusion of al-Megrahi from the PTA. Just as it previously helped to save BP deals in Russia and in the U.S., the U.K. again took extraordinary steps to ensure BP's Libyan oil agreement. As Secretary Straw later described, Libyan trade concerns and the BP agreement factored heavily into the PTA decision. "I'm unapologetic about that..." he stated. "And yes, that included trade because trade is an essential part of it and subsequently there was the BP deal." ...

Given the importance of Libyan resources to U.K. energy companies and the U.K. government's willingness to intervene on behalf of their energy companies abroad, it should come as no surprise that the U.K. actively worked to have al-Megrahi released to Libya.

It also should come as no surprise to anyone familiar with BP's corrupt conduct in the United States, these days. So, ditto that.