BP pressed for ‘desert deal’ but not compassionate release

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BP has admitted that it lobbied the Westminster government over the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) agreed with Libya after the ‘Deal in the Desert’ that took place in May 2007.

The oil giant has confirmed that it pressed the then Labour government for a deal as it feared any delays would hit its commercial interests and harm offshore drilling operations it was conducting in the region.

However the company has stated that it made no such approaches to the Scottish government in relation to the compassionate release of Al Megrahi two years later.


BP has admitted that it lobbied the Westminster government over the Prisoner Transfer Agreement (PTA) agreed with Libya after the ‘Deal in the Desert’ that took place in May 2007.

The oil giant has confirmed that it pressed the then Labour government for a deal as it feared any delays would hit its commercial interests and harm offshore drilling operations it was conducting in the region.

However the company has stated that it made no such approaches to the Scottish government in relation to the compassionate release of Al Megrahi two years later.

The oil giant is at the centre of US demands for an investigation into BP’s interests in Libya.  The demands come from US Senators who are concerned about the role the company may have played in negotiations over Megrahi.

The admission by BP that it had pressed for the PTA agreement came just hours after the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, promised to investigate the company’s role in the affair.

The company released a statement saying:
“It is matter of public record that in late 2007 BP told the UK Government that we were concerned about the slow progress that was being made in concluding a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya.

“We were aware that this could have a negative impact on UK commercial interests, including the ratification by the Libyan Government of BP’s exploration agreement.”
 
The statement then confirmed that no such discussions had been held with the Scottish government.

A spokesman added:
“The decision to release Mr al-Megrahi in August 2009 was taken by the Scottish Government.

“It’s not for BP to comment on the decision of the Scottish Government.

“BP was not involved in any discussions with the UK Government or the Scottish Government about the release of Mr al-Megrahi.”
 
Labour’s former Justice Minister Jack Straw has admitted that Libyan trade and oil deals were an “essential part” of the last Government’s decision to include Megrahi in the PTA.  Mr Straw remains unapologetic about the agreement and has referred to the multi-million-pound oil deal that was confirmed weeks later.

The admission from BP that it lobbied the Labour government for a deal over Megrahi will heap further pressure on the company who are facing mounting criticism over their handling of the oil leak in the Gulf of Mexico.

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