UKEF and BAE reach deal over historic Iran weapons sales

Global Trade Review, London, 15 May 2023) UK Export Finance (UKEF) and defence giant BAE Systems have struck a last-minute out of court deal to settle a £13.9mn claim by the government agency over guarantees for missile systems sold to Iran in the 1970s. In around 1980, export credit agency UKEF paid a claim under a policy covering contracts for the supply and maintenance of the Rapier surface-to-air missile system, a deal which fell apart in the wake of the Islamic Revolution of 1979. A UKEF spokesperson later confirmed to GTR that a deal was struck and the trial averted, but did not provide details of the settlement. Court documents show that UKEF paid BAE (then BAC) £27.3mn under guarantees issued between 1973 and 1977, when Iran was ruled by Western-backed autocrat Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi. But in 1991, Iran’s defence ministry launched arbitration proceedings in The Hague against BAE for alleged non-performance of defence contracts, which triggered a counterclaim by the UK firm. Almost two decades later the arbitration panel awarded BAE £28.8mn from the Iranian defence ministry, while Iran was awarded an undisclosed “greater amount” from BAE in relation to other contracts not covered by the UK government guarantees. BAE has historically been a major purchaser of UKEF’s export credit products. Between 2018 and 2022 alone, UKEF extended £3.5bn in support to BAE through direct lending and buyer’s credit, according to the agency’s data.