Senators Seek Probe into Alleged BP-Lockerbie Link
July 13, 2010 - 5:58 PMThe four senators from New Jersey and New York on Tuesday asked the U.S. State Department to investigate whether oil giant BP played a role in winning last year's release of the man convicted of the Lockerbie airliner bombing.
The request to Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton came a day after the same senators asked her to press the British government to look into the circumstances surrounding the release of the convicted bomber, Abdel Baset al-Megrahi.
In the second letter, the four Democrats said they were concerned BP may have put profits ahead of justice in Megrahi case, given the petroleum giant's current handling of the Gulf oil spill.
"Evidence in the Deepwater Horizon disaster seems to suggest that BP would put profit ahead of people - its attention to safety was negligible and it routinely underestimated the amount of oil gushing into the Gulf," according to the letter from Kirsten Gillibrand and Charles Schumer of New York and Frank Lautenberg and Robert Menendez of New Jersey. "The question we now have to answer is, was this corporation willing to trade justice in the murder of 270 innocent people for oil profits?"
The aim of the investigation, they wrote, was to "fully determine the legitimacy of the decision to release this mass murderer and to fully understand the source of revenue streams for this corporation, which owes American taxpayers and coastal families billions of dollars."
BP signed a $900 million exploration agreement with Libya in May 2007, the same month that Britain and Libya inked a memorandum of understanding that paved the way for al-Megrahi's release from a Scottish prison. At the time, BP said it told British officials to quickly seal a prisoner transfer agreement with Libya but did not mention al-Megrahi.
On Tuesday, BP repeated that it did not specifically talk about the al-Megrahi case.
"Like many others we were aware that a delay in the deal might have negative consequences for UK commercial interests, including ratification of BP's exploration agreeement," said company spokesman Robert Wine.
"However, we did not express a view about the specific form of the agreement, which was a matter for the UK and Libyan governments, or make representations over the al-Megrahi case, which was solely a matter for the Scottish Executive and not for the UK Government."
Al-Megrahi served eight years of a life sentence for the Dec. 21, 1988, bombing of the Pan Am Flight 103 as it flew from London to New York. The bombing killed 270 people, most of them American.
He was released on compassionate grounds and returned to Libya in August of last year after doctors said the cancer-stricken man had only three months to live. But a doctor now says al-Megrahi could live for another decade, infuriating many, including the four senators who are demanding that he be returned to Britain to serve out the rest of his sentence.
The State Department could not confirm that Clinton had received the letter but said the U.S. had been opposed to al-Megrahi's release in the first place and had registered its disapproval with the British government at the time.
Spokesman P.J. Crowley acknowledged that "there are some serious questions that have been raised" about al-Megrahi's release but could not say if the department would open an investigation into BP's alleged role.
"We will obviously review letters that we've received and respond to them," he told reporters. "At that point, we'll make a judgment as to whether we think the actions that they have recommended are appropriate."
Associated Press writer Harry R. Weber in Houston contributed to this report.
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