British defence company BAE Systems has effectively blacklisted a fifth of the world’s countries as part of moves to comply with anti-corruption laws, The Times reported yesterday.

The company, which has recently faced allegations that it paid huge bribes to facilitate business in Saudi Arabia, is concentrating on core markets to cut costs and ensure compliance with international laws.

While BAE is still doing business with Saudi Arabia, it says it will not work with between 15% and 20% of the world’s defence markets because the only way to win contracts in these places is to offer payment or other favours.

BAE denies any wrongdoing but the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) is investigating six contracts signed in the 1990s where there is alleged to have been some corruption.

The company’s strategy for working with international markets is to focus on six core countries: Britain, the US, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Sweden and Australia.

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