The British government licenced the sale of almost £11.5m worth of military equipment to Saudi Arabia in the three months after the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Sky News has learnt.
The true figure is likely to be higher, because of the use of a type of licence which allows the agreement to be extended over time. The government is not obliged to clarify the final figure.
Figures from the Department of International Trade (DIT), compiled by the Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT), and verified and analysed by Sky News, show between October and December 2018 a total of £11,414,054 military licences were granted to Saudi Arabia.
Saudi Mr Khashoggi, a staunch critic of his crown prince, was last seen entering the country’s consulate in Istanbul on 2 October last year.
The UK approved a £9.1m military export licence for what is listed as “military patrol/assault craft”. According to CAAT, this happened just three days after Mr Khashoggi was last seen and as investigations into his disappearance surged on amid suspicions he had been killed.
In the months that followed, Sky News has seen that licences were granted for anti-armour ammunition, electronic warfare equipment and “military improvised explosive device decoying/detection/disposal/jamming equipment”, among others.
No licences processed during the three months after Mr Khashoggi’s death were refused, rejected or revoked.
The UK’s relationship with Saudi Arabia came under scrutiny after Mr Khashoggi’s murder, which the United Nations has said was “planned and perpetrated” by Saudi officials.
Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt raised the case during a visit to Saudi Arabia in November and Prime Minister Theresa May issued a warning to the country’s crown prince, telling him he must take action to ensure “such a deplorable incident” does not happen again.
Additionally, the spiralling war in Yemen which has had a devastating impact on civilians has fuelled criticism. The conflict has seen thousands die and 20 million more live on the brink of famine.
Sky News previously revealed that the UK sold at least £5.7bn worth of arms to the Saudi-led coalition fighting in Yemen since the start of the war in 2015 – with more than 80% of those sales have been received by Saudi Arabia.
The total sales to Saudi Arabia since the start of the war in March 2015 up to the latest available data is £4.7bn.
Newly published documents by the government also show that Saudi Arabia is in the top ten countries ranked by value of licences approved by the UK in 2018 – with £130m worth of licences. The US and South Korea are first and second, with £3.23bn and £760m.
A spokesperson for the DIT told Sky News: “The government takes its export responsibilities very seriously. We operate one of the most robust export control regimes in the world and keep our defence exports to Saudi Arabia under careful and continual review.
“All export licence applications are assessed on a case-by-case basis against the Consolidated EU and National Arms Export Licensing Criteria, taking account of all relevant factors at the time of the application.
“We will not a grant a licence if to do so would be inconsistent with these criteria.”
Andrew Smith, spokesperson for CAAT, said: “The murder of Jamal Khashoggi was condemned around the world, but for the arms dealers it was business as usual. At the same time as the regime was coming under unprecedented pressure, the UK government was cozying up to the dictatorship and signing off on arms deals.”
He added: “The humanitarian crisis that Saudi forces have inflicted on Yemen hasn’t been enough to stop arms sales. Nor has the brutal killing of Jamal Khashoggi. If these atrocities haven’t been enough for Downing Street to act then what more would it take?”