BP received a new round of scrutiny yesterday when it admitted that officials had lobbied the British government in 2007 to “conclude a prisoner-transfer agreement that the Libyan government wanted to secure the release of the only person ever convicted for the 1988 Lockerbie airliner bombing over Scotland, which killed 270 people, 189 of them Americans.” BP was “worried that a stalemate on that front would undercut an oil exploration deal with Libya.”
The new details demonstrate that BP was willing to risk international security for pure profit motives. The UK ambassador to the U.S. issued yesterday stated that the British government “is clear that Megrahi’s release was a mistake,” but denied any link with BP. (The UK justice minister at the time, Jack Straw, had admitted that the BP-Libya deal was a factor in the government’s review of Al-Megrahi’s case.) The Senate Foreign Relations Committee will hold a hearing on the issue, and Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) said BP should freeze its operations in Libya because it “should not be allowed to profit on this deal at the expense of the victims of terrorism.”
As BP was privately lobbying the UK government, it was also publicly trying to improve the country’s image and extolling how beneficial an oil relationship between Libya and BP would be for Britain. ThinkProgress found an old BP Magazine (Issue 4 2007) that ran an entire article titled, “Libya: A Commanding Presence on the World Stage.” In the piece, a BP official essentially brushes aside the Lockerbie bombing:
“When you talk to people outside about Libya, Lockerbie is often the first thing they think of — terrorism. In actual fact, it’s probably one of the safest places I’ve been to with BP,” says BP Libya’s business support manager, Ian McGregor.
“Initially, most people ask about security. They think it’s very unsafe, or there are a lot of army and guns everywhere. To be honest, it’s the absolute opposite.” […]
Speaking at the signing, Hayward hailed the agreement as the start of an enduring and mutually beneficial partnership, which will allow BP and Libya to deliver on their aspirations for growth.
“With its potentially large resources of gas, favourable geographic location and improving investment climate, Libya has an enormous opportunity to be a source of future energy for the world.”
BP is poised to begin deepwater drilling in Libya next month, a deal potentially worth $20 billion. Jim Mitchell of the Dallas Morning News writes, “I’m not so naive to think that BP is the only company that has put profits and business opportunity ahead of justice, but this is stunning especially since Lockerbie was such as heinous act and Abdel Basset Ali al-Megrahi the only convicted perpetrator for a crime that has provided little closure to families of victims.”