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Thatcher's Son Reportedly Got Millions From Saudi Arms Deal

October 10, 1994|WILLIAM TUOHY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

LONDON — Labor Party officials called Sunday for a parliamentary investigation into charges that Mark Thatcher, the son of former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, reaped millions of dollars in arms sales commissions.

Labor spokesman Robin Cook urged that the government set up an inquiry into allegations that Mark Thatcher, 41, helped broker a British arms deal to Saudi Arabia worth a reported $35 billion in the mid-1980s.

According to a long report in the London Sunday Times, middlemen in the arms deal--which involved aircraft, warships and ammunition--received about $360 million for their services.

Both the Sunday Times and the Independent on Sunday said Mark Thatcher earned a $19-million commission for helping secure the deal.

Then-Prime Minister Thatcher played an active role in winning the Saudi deal against fierce foreign competition, visiting Riyadh, the Saudi capital, in 1985.

The Sunday Times did not suggest that Mark Thatcher, who is married to an American and lives in Dallas, did anything illegal.

But it questioned the ethics of the prime minister's actions in allowing her son to become involved in a deal between the British arms makers and the Saudi government.

"Mrs. Thatcher liked to lecture the rest of us on the need to stand on our own two feet and not to accept handouts," Cook said. "She now stands accused of letting her own son use her public position to feather his own nest with the biggest handout on record."

The Sunday Times said the allegations that Mark Thatcher profited heavily were confirmed by transcripts of telephone calls tapped by Saudi intelligence between members of the Saudi royal family and its agents in the deal.

The source of Mark Thatcher's wealth has long been a subject of speculation in Britain: Almost overnight, he went from an ordinary accountant to a man with a fortune.

In 1992, Labor lawmaker Tam Dalyell asked the government to confirm or deny that Mark Thatcher had received millions from the deal between Britain and Saudi Arabia--without success.

But he promised Sunday, "I shall return to the subject when the House of Commons reassembles, as I believe that this whole case should be pursued in Parliament."

The allegations are expected to roil a Conservative Party conference this week, which the former prime minister is scheduled to attend.

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