SCANDALS: The Lockheed Mystery (Contd.)

  • Share
  • Read Later

Like the Watergate scandal from which it once sprouted, the Lockheed scandal seems to have acquired a quality of indestructibility. Even when the charges of corruption are officially denied, they keep reappearing as rumors and innuendoes. Last week, as the scandal once again rippled across Europe, a parliament debated whether to prosecute a prince, a Premier was publicly accused of graft, and a former Defense Minister repeated his assertions that he had done nothing wrong. The only certainty was that the Lockheed Aircraft Corp., the largest defense contractor in the U.S., has admitted spending some $24 million in bribes overseas. Where it all went, nobody seems to know—at least nobody who is telling.

The impetus for the new gossip and speculation was the 240-page report by a three-man Dutch commission headed by European Court Judge Andreas Donner, charging Prince Bernhard of The Netherlands with "unacceptable" behavior in his dealings with Lockheed. Although the commission found no proof that Bernhard actually received the $1.1 million that Lockheed allegedly paid him, the Dutch parliament last week somberly debated whether the 65-year-old royal consort should be prosecuted. A tiny left-wing faction favored prosecution. But Protestant Anti-Revolutionary Party Leader Willem Aantjes summed up the views of many: "History shows the faithfulness of the House of Orange toward The Netherlands. Let us now show the loyalty of Holland toward Orange." The chamber voted overwhelmingly against prosecution.

Before the week was out, however, the Dutch government released new evidence that Prince Bernhard had also lobbied on behalf of Lockheed's chief rival, Northrop Aircraft. A 1971 exchange of letters between the Dutch and West German Defense Ministers referred to Prince Bernhard's attempts to persuade West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt (then Defense Minister) to purchase Northrop's YF-17 Cobra prototype fighter to replace Lockheed's Starfighter. Although the Dutch commission did not fully explore the prince's links with Northrop, several Dutch newspapers are now investigating the matter.

The chastened but hardly cowering Bernhard was surviving all the criticism quite well. Indeed, he plans to attend Prince's Day ceremonies, celebrating the official opening of the Dutch parliamentary year, as usual on Sept. 21. The only difference: as he passes through the streets with Queen Juliana in her famous horse-drawn golden carriage, the prince will be dressed in a morning coat rather than in the navy uniform that he has been forced to put into mothballs. Snapped Bernhard to a friend who inquired too curiously about his Prince's Day plans: "You would not have thought that I would go into hiding?" The restrained Dutch reaction to the prince's misdeeds stems largely from a deep affection for Queen Juliana, who is popularly regarded as a kindly monarch. But as the Dutch began their recovery from the Lockheed malaise, new outbreaks of the disease began to occur elsewhere:

  1. Previous Page
  2. 1
  3. 2
  4. 3