BP's role in the release of the Lockerbie bomber from a Scottish prison is being questioned in a letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee by Sen Frank Lautenberg, who is requesting an investigation into the oil company's success in securing a drilling contract in Libya.
Abdel Basset al-Megrahi, a Libyan intelligence agent convicted in the 1988 bombing of Pan Am flight 103, won early release from prison last year after a doctor testified that he was near death and it would be compassionate to let him die a free man. But there are suggestions that Megrahi, who was given just weeks to live but is still alive and kicking, may have been the linchpin in BP's efforts to secure drilling rights in the Gulf of Sidra.
"The prospect that oil contracts between BP and the government of Libya may have affected the release, as well as new questions about the veracity of medical reports detailing Mr Megrahi’s health at the time, are disturbing developments that demand the attention of Congress, Lautenberg, D-NJ, wrote to Sens John Kerry, D-Mass, and Richard Lugar, R-Ind, the co-chairmen of the Foreign Relations Committee. (...)
The UK-based BP, which is responsible for the oil spill that has been gushing into the Gulf of Mexico for 85 [days], admitted that in 2007 it raised concern that a "prisoner transfer agreement with the Libyan government might hurt" the oil deal, according to Lautenberg.
Megrahi originally had not been part of the prisoner transfer, but former British Secretary of State for Justice Jack Straw later cited "overwhelming interests for the United Kingdom" in including Megrahi.
BP could earn as much as $20 billion from the deal with Libya, set to begin next month.
"It is shocking to even contemplate that BP is profiting from the release of a terrorist with the blood of 189 Americans on his hands," Lautenberg wrote. "The families of the victims of Pan Am flight 103 deserve to know whether justice took a back seat to commercial interests in this case."
[From a report published today on the website of FOX News. The Senator's letter can be read here.
An article on the website of the New York Daily News contains the following:]
BP admits it had an interest in the prsioner swap, and was concerned it would derail its drilling deal, but the company insists it did push the Megrahi case.
BP spokesman Mark Salt e-mailed the following:
*It is a matter of public record that in late 2007 BP discussed with the UK government our concern at the slow progress in concluding a Prisoner Transfer Agreement with Libya.
*Like many others we were aware that a delay might have negative consequences for UK commercial interests, including ratification of BP’s exploration agreement.
*However, we did not express a view about the specific form of the agreement, which was a matter for the UK and Libyan governments, or make representations over the al-Megrahi case, which was solely a matter for the Scottish Executive and not for the UK Government.