10 Mar 2011

Prince Andrew: ‘Cheerleader in chief for the arms industry’

As Prince Andrew is reported to have met the Queen to discuss criticism of his trade role, Campaign Against the Arms Trade tell Channel 4 News: “He is cheerleader in chief for the arms industry.”

Prince Andrew, UK trade envoy. (Reuters)

Prince Andrew is reported to have had a meeting with the Queen on Tuesday, to discuss the storm of criticism surrounding him and his role as UK trade envoy. The prince was already facing criticism over his links to Colonel Gaddafi’s son, when his friendship with a convicted paedophile Jeffrey Epstein brought him more unwanted attention. He was forced to admit that the friendship had been ‘unwise’, but more revelations are keeping him in the news.

On Thursday the Ministry of Defence confirmed that Jeffrey Epstein landed his private jet at an RAF fighter base during a visit to the prince at Sandringham, though they say it is ‘not unusual’ for civilians to use the base.

Now it has been revealed that on Monday he met with Westminster MP Mark Field, who chairs the All-Parliamentary Group on Azerbaijan, to discuss promoting investment into the country. The regime in Azerbaijan, led by President Ilham Aliyev has been criticised by Amnesty International, who appealed to Prince Andrew to intervene on behalf of a newspaper editor, Eynulla Fetullayev who is serving a prison sentence on what the rights group say are ‘fabricated charges’. His father, Emin Fetullayev said in a statement: “The government of Azerbaijan is persecuting my son for writing the truth. Prince Andrew could actually help my son. The Prince is friends with President Aliyev so maybe he will listen to him.”

Mark Field defended the Princes’ involvement, saying: “He wants to raise the profile of the all-party group and wants us to make the case in parliament and to the business secretary of the business opportunities out in Azerbaijan.”

There were also reports in Thursday’s papers linking the Prince to the potential sale of Eurofighter Typhoons to Indonesia, a country which was banned from buying British arms 12 years ago after allegations the British-built jets were used to bomb civilians.

‘He is the front man for UKTI’

Prince Andrew did visit Indonesia in March 2008, as part of his ongoing international visits programme, working on behalf of UK Trade and Investment, the government’s export promotion body.

A spokesman at UKTI told Channel 4 News in response: “Prince Andrew supports and represents all sectors of UKTI and promotes business across those sectors.” He added that there is no campaign for fighter jets in Indonesia, saying: “We are unaware that Indonesia wants or needs fighter jets. We have very strict export licences and anything like that would have to go through proper procedures.”

Last July the Prince visited the Farnborough Airshow, a major showpiece of the UK arms industry, in his role as trade representative, meeting senior figures from the Jordanian, Malaysian and Indian defence ministries.

Campaign against the Arms Trade has lobbied for several years for the closure of the part of UKTI that deals with arms trade. Kaye Stearman at CAAT told Channel 4 News that Prince Andrew is part of what they see as a wider problem. She said: “He is the front man for UKTI. Our concerns are not just Prince Andrew, it’s the whole UKTI set up. They see arms as just another commodity but it has completely disproportionate resources. At the London office of UKTI the arms sector has more staff than all the others put together.”

“We are concerned that Prince Andrew is used to sell arms, and where you sell arms it is likely to be to despotic regimes. He is the cheerleader in chief for the arms industry, shaking hands and paving the way for the salesmen.”

The Prince’s spokesman today refused to comment on press reports that he had a meetinng with the Queen to discuss the ongoing criticism.