It has brought the deal to the brink of collapse.
We’ve broken the story online because the redoubtable Cathy Newman of Channel 4 News has been chasing the same tale. The main elements are:
– MoD police are investigating the access to information given to bidders and the relationship between a military officer, who has since left the forces, and CHC, a Canadian helicopter operator that is part of the Soteria consortium chosen as preferred bidder.
– Royal Bank of Scotland have pulled out of the Soteria consortium because their concerns over the allegations. It will make it much harder for the deal to be revived, even if the concerns over improper conduct prove to be unfounded.
– Ministers are urgently examining options on how to proceed, including re-tendering the contract and scrapping the private finance initiative model altogether.
This is the deal, remember, that so angered Prince William he raised his concerns with the prime minister.
Here is the response from a Soteria spokesperson:
“Soteria confirms that Royal Bank Project Investments Limited withdrew as a shareholder from the consortium just before Christmas and the procuring authority was promptly informed. All other members remain committed to Soteria and the SAR-H Project and are continuing to work with the procuring authority to deliver an essential search and rescue service for the people of the United Kingdom. We feel it is inappropriate for Soteria to make any further comment.”