Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Libya 'granted oil concessions to BP on understanding Lockerbie bomber Megrahi would return home'

[This is the headline over a report published this morning on The Telegraph website.  It reads in part:]

Libya's former foreign minister has said that Tripoli granted massive oil concessions to BP on the understanding the Abdelbaset al-Megrahi, the Lockerbie bomber, would be returned home.

Abdulati al-Obeidi told the BBC that Britain had accepted Libyan indications that Abdelbaset al-Megrahi’s release was an unwritten quid pro quo of the multi-billion pound contract. 

“There was a hint that releasing him would help but it was not a condition,” he said. “The Libyan side, and you know the British, they know how to take things”

Asked if an exchange of the prisoner was part of the talks, Mr Obeidi said: “This is what I think”.

BP secured one of the largest contracts to exploit Libyan oil reserves after Col Gaddafi’s regime came in from the cold. The contract was celebrated as part of Tony Blair’s infamous Deal in the Desert trip to Libya.

Last year BP admitted it pressed for a deal over the controversial prisoner transfer agreement amid fears any delays would damage its “commercial interests”, but denied it had been involved in negotiations concerning Megrahi’s release.

[Here is what I wrote on this blog on 28 January 2010:]

According to Jack Straw "the Libyans understood that the discretion in respect of any PTA application rested with the Scottish Executive." This is not so. In meetings that I had with Libyan officials at the highest level shortly after the "deal in the desert" it was abundantly clear that the Libyans believed that the UK Government could order the transfer of Mr Megrahi and that they were prepared to do so. When I told them that the relevant powers rested with the Scottish -- not the UK -- Government, they simply did not believe me. When they eventually realised that I had been correct, their anger and disgust with the UK Government was palpable. As I have said elsewhere:

"The memorandum of understanding regarding prisoner transfer that Tony Blair entered into in the course of the "deal in the desert" in May 2007, and which paved the way for the formal prisoner transfer agreement, was intended by both sides to lead to the rapid return of Mr Megrahi to his homeland. This was the clear understanding of Libyan officials involved in the negotiations and to whom I have spoken.

"It was only after the memorandum of understanding was concluded that [it belatedly sunk in] that the decision on repatriation of this particular prisoner was a matter not for Westminster and Whitehall but for the devolved Scottish Government in Edinburgh, and that government had just come into the hands of the Scottish National Party and so could no longer be expected supinely to follow the UK Labour Government's wishes. That was when the understanding between the UK Government and the Libyan Government started to unravel, to the considerable annoyance and distress of the Libyans, who had been led to believe that repatriation under the PTA was only months away."

[Among the Libyan officials with whom I discussed this matter at the time were Abdulati al-Obeidi, Moussa Koussa and Abdel Rahman Shalgam.

Scottish lawyers' magazine The Firm has published a news item on this issue which can be read here.]


  1. Thanks for clarifying this obvious deception by HMG, Robert.

    Suddenly, the jigsaw puzzle pieces fit together: Tony Blair resigns as Prime Minister on 27 June 2007; the SCCRC publishes a summary of its report on Megrahi's wrongful conviction on 28 June 2007.

    On assuming the reins of power, Gordon Brown must have scowled and whispered: "That's another fine mess you've got me into!"

  2. So, the question is: Why did Holyrood go along with Westminster?

    It's apparent that Holyrood wouldn't piss on Westminster's head if their hair were on fire. So, what was in it for Scotland?

    Before y'all get on your "we Scots are compassionate, yada, yada, yada..."

    I am sure you can appreciate that most Americans, most British, most English (specifically) and I disbelieve that it was altruistic. Especially noteworthy is that the parole board report notes that victim representations were not included in consideration of the CR application.

    Given this was the 2nd largest airline bombing in the history of man, and the largest in the UK, one would THINK the victims would get some consideration. It has all the earmarks of a pre-determined outcome (compassionate release). Wouldn't TRUE altruism be extended to the victims FIRST, if a pre-determined conclusion were not being driven?

    To quote: "The Board noted that no victim representations had been presented for consideration." (Page 11)

    I offer that published reports state that a prior health related release was dismissed by judges who stated Megrahi could live for several years (when he ALSO had WEEKS TO LIVE). I refer to "An earlier request, made in October 2008, was rejected by Appeal Court judges after they heard medical evidence that with adequate palliative care, Megrahi could live for several years."


    Why do YOU think the Scots would release Megrahi? Please exclude "he's innocent" the conviction is a separate issue from the release, though the former is a predicate of the latter.

    Short question: Why do you think Holyrood would line up with Westminster on this ONE issue? Of ALL issues to line up on, why this one? Stating that it was compassion causes one to believe in coincidence. I am asking you for your thoughts on the causal relationship. I have already shared mine. I am interested in yours.


    PS I will reiterate my bet is that he will live, not die. Please get that right.

  3. Just shows what matters most - your money or your life - no argument there!!!

  4. @George - I am being serious...

    Why do YOU all think Megrahi was released?

  5. Michael, Holyrood didn't go along with Westminster. Megrahi was released on compassionate grounds which is normal in Scotland when a prisoner is dying of cancer. If I remember correctly, Westminster tried to free him as part of a prisoner exchange agreement.
    What was in it for Scotland? That is a question for those, like you, who do not accept the "compassionate grounds" scenario. A committee of American senators failed to come up with an answer and nobody that I have heard has come up with any evidence that there was another motive. Was MacAskill bribed? Was there a Libya-Scotland oil deal? Come up with a credible alternative to Scottish compassion and we will all listen to you; many on this site are, like you, suspicious of MacAskill's motive.
    At the time, everyone was well aware that Megrahi might live longer than the 3 month projection. That is the nature of such a diagnosis. In my experience, most of those who questioned that projection wanted Megrahi never to be released so, for them, the matter of timing is immaterial.
    For what it's worth, I believe that MacAskill knew that Megrahi was wrongly convicted but felt that a successful appeal would create huge problems for the new minority SNP government at home and abroad. At home, many new allies in the Scottish legal establishment would be made to look foolish and worse while probing questions would also be asked of the UK's and America's insidious role in the whole affair. Given that, by that time, the UK and the USA had been shamelessly cosying up to "Lockerbie mastermind" Gadaffi for oil and trade deals MacAskill judged that releasing Megrahi in the way he did was his "least worst" option and he simply underestimated the level of hypocrisy of American and British politicians.
    I know that it is not a popular opinion on this site but I believe that MacAskill's compassion was driven by the knowledge that he was freeing an innocent man. If you believe otherwise then answer the question: What was in it for MacAskill, the SNP or Scotland?

  6. @Grendal - I appreciate the dispassionate discourse.

    Well, the US Senators did come up with a reason for the release (from the UK side) and dismissed the Scottish angle because it is not a sovereign nation -- in Washingtonese, Scotland is irrelevant because foreign policy is not a devolved power.

    Was MacAskill bribed? I don't believe so. He's not the brightest bulb in the pack (and, frankly, one of the dimmer ones), but he doesn't strike me as corrupt. Politically expedient, perhaps, but not corrupt.

    As I have stated before, were MacAskill inclined to believe Megrahi was innocent, it would be more logical to RELEASE the SCCRC report (4 years ago or since), or to let the appeal proceed. (I realize the appeal was withdrawn by Megrahi, but the PTA was a non-starter [per MacAskill], yet its potential for proceeding was the pretty much exclusive dialogue at Greenock. It's also interesting to note that the invalidity of PTA was NOT noted in teh notes from the Greenock meeting.)

    MacAskill had nothing to lose:
    1) If the Americans corrupted the process, then he could throw them under the bus -- which he has not done to date, despite the heat from Sen's. Gillibrand, Schumer, Menendez and Lautenberg, Secy of State Clinton and even President Obama. That would be a trump card of epic proportions to play -- which is why I believe JFM will really go nowhere in the long run (even if the appeal moved forward).
    2) If Scotland were complicit in the "cover up", then MacAskill could throw the prior Labour Government "under the bus" and find himself heralded as "the vanquisher of bad justice"...forever glorified in the annals of Scots Lore...

    So, that is the logical discontinuity I see from the "he thought he was really innocent" angle.

    I also find logical discontinuity about embarrassing the Scottish Legal establishment, as he had no problem slamming the UK Supreme Court (and the Scots on it). I would argue that vitriolic rant(s) reinforces my posits in bullet #1 and #2. As for embarrassing the UK establishment, MacAskill has no concern about that, based on those same rants for which he is both unstatesmanlike and unapologetic.

    At the risk of being repetitive, again, again...

    I think the $2.7bn in victims' compensation that Scotland (alone) was on the hook for is the reason that this option was pursued (with Megrahi appeal withdrawal -- though not required). Here's the deal: if £1.3m was too much to put Megrahi in a Strathclyde Hospice, and $900m (on an economy of $2.1T) was enough to corrupt Blair et al, then I bet $2.7bn was enough to be MacAskill/Salmond to bend because that would be huge impact on an economy of approx. $180bn. I don't know what the Scottish Executive's budget is, but I bet the $2.7bn is a huge chunk of that...and thus incentive to "faciliate" the release.

    So, THAT is what I think induced the release.

  7. Folks:

    I do want to share something with you all INSIDE Scotland that you might find surprising: Scotland is NOT the world player that the allegations of the "uncomfortable" questions being asked would insinuate.

    You questioning the US integrity is like having Deputy Barney Fife of Mayberry (see Andy Griffith Show from the 60's) interrogating the POTUS. It's not serious in anybody's mind -- anyone with gravitas, that is.

    Don't get me wrong, I like Scotland -- a bit dark and dreary in winter, but it's charming.

    However, it's IRRELEVANT on the world political stage.

    The perception outside Scotland is that of a tourist destination for golf and castles, but it's irrelevant as a "world player".

    Your only presence on the political world stage was the Lockerbie release and overwhelmingly in the US, people 1) think you all are either stupid, naive or willfully disloyal to law and order and the USA, or 2) are big fish in a small pond looking to flex muscles on teh world stage -- muscles you really don't have.

    Even if it were ACTUALLY be true that Megrahi were innocent (he can commit the crime and be found innocent), Americans believe in the due process of law. Americans would have had more faith in Scotland had it let the process of the appeal proceed to its natural conclusion.

    Instead, it diminished itself in "backdooring" the release -- showing it was tied to Westminster's teats in a corrupt deal.

    Trust me, nobody here is lauding the "it's the only way you can release an innocent man angle" Americans (and Brits) think he is guilty.

    Truth be told, Scotland is looking more like a banana republic with an out of control "student senate" for a Parliament.

    So, if you all believe that the US (and the majority of folks outside Scotland) that this was a noble release, you are all sadly intellectually incestuous and delusional.

    Here's what we hear: "The release was done in accordance with yada yada yada..."

    Our reaction: Smells like bulls***.

    Just an FYI.

  8. Michael,well the senators were wrong to dismiss the Scottish angle. Their doing so only shows how ignorant they are of the situation over here.The idea that a minority SNP Scottish government sat down with a British Labour one at Westminster to hatch a deal on Megrahi is ludicrous given the hatred between the two which was only going to get worse as we edged towards an independence referendum.Such a deal could never be kept secret and only the most naive politician would have entered into one.
    I doubt that MacAskill thought that the Americans would react the way they did. Condoleeza Rice and a team led by John McCain had been to Libya to meet Gadaffi and American companies had been wined and dined with Libyan officials on Capitol Hill without a sqeak from Lockerbie victims' families. MacAskill had just written a book about the Scots in America and had spent considerable time over there. I think he was genuinely shocked by the reaction. He is "politically expedient" enough to know that there is little point in attacking the world's biggest super-power so he and the SNP have simply hammered Labour,a tactic which has proved sound given the SNP's recent landslide.
    I think £2.7bn was the total compesation figure and Scots victims families would only have received a small fraction of that, not nearly enough to give your hypothesis any credibility.
    As for your little, patronising lecture about Scotland may I remind you that all Scotland did was release a prisoner by due process of it's law. It was America and the UK who made the fuss. It might surprise you to learn that Scots don't wake up in the morning, nor go to sleep at night worrying what Americans thinks of it.
    Perhaps you who should take a good look in the mirror, Michael. Who are you? Just a single individual like the rest of us on this site. Do you think that being American bestows upon you some special intelligence or incite. Could it be that the American posture and arrogance we have all witnessed above is a major reason why your country is now nosediving into political impotence and economic crisis?

  9. @Grendal - Scotland was on the hook for the ENTIRETY of the $2.7bn as a result of what would have been a "flawed prosecution", not a fraction as you claim.

    As for me? You're right. I am a nobody...but, wait, wasn't @SM extolling the virtues of my long-armed power to direct FoxNews' Jonathan Hunt just days ago? Imagine, my power and influence extends 1800 miles to NYC to control my minions...thanks for the ego-petting.

    C'mon, I am either a nobody, or the marionette master of FoxNews...I think those are mutually exclusive observations.


    I am no better or worse than anyone here. I am proudly American. I am also proudly British, being English on my mom's side.

    Americans are the aggrieved party here. PanAm was an American flagged carrier. Most of the passengers were American. This was an American prosecution. And America agreed under UN1192 to allow the trial to proceed with Scots Law with the understanding that the entirety of the sentence (which was elongating concurrent with the timing of the release) was served in a UK prison.

    If Kenny MacAskill thought he could slide Megrahi out the door, that makes him either dimmer than I gave him credit for or incredibly narcissistic. By the way, ARE YOU SAYING THAT MACASKILL GAINED ALL HIS KNOWLEDGE OF AMERICA FROM ATTENDING THE EDINBURG (TEXAS) COUNTY FAIR during his extensive travels? Well, good for him -- at least he emulates the Supreme Court Judges he so assiduously attempts to emasculate.

    Take the blowback away from this. Megrahi was the single LARGEST convicted mass murderer (non war-crime) in history. What happened to the Justice Minister administering justice irrespective of the victims?

    In short, justice is a standard for all -- not situational ethics. There's a simple question to determine which occurred: If this were HaggisAir and 270 Scots were killed, and Libya wanted Megrahi back, would MacAskill & Salmond have permitted the release? How would YOU feel then?

    I guess the difference between our two cultures is that we, as Americans, would be equally outraged for you, while we are now relegated to being outraged BY YOU.

    I think many would argue that MacAskill (and Salmond) appear to be ethically challenged in light of the Lockerbie release.

    However, the "release of Megrahi was in accordance....yada yada yada".

  10. After the Obama speech to a Joint Session of Congress, a headline in today's LA Times noted: "961 days in, Obama becomes sick and tired of someone dawdling about jobs" made me think...

    Obama took office on January 20, 2009...the Lockerbie Bomber has had "weeks to live" since October 21, 2008.

    1) Megrahi has been near death longer than Obama has been President
    2) Megrahi had weeks to live in a Daily Mail article on October 21, 2008.... 1054 days ago...

    Supposedly had weeks to live back in 2008...yet a panel of judges determined that diagnosis did not take into account palliative care...

    It's ironic that those judges were apparently right...1054 days ago... yet, Megrahi outlived 90 days by 11.7 times since original diagnosis. Yet, one man - MacAskill - could get it so wrong...

    Just a thought...