The Ministry of Defence in London is pictured on October 13, 2010.

Story highlights

An undercover Sunday Times investigation secretly filmed retired military officials

The officials allegedly claimed they could influence arms deals for private firms

The officials, all retired generals, denied the allegations by the Sunday Times

The Ministry of Defence has launched an investigation into the allegations

CNN —  

Some of Britain’s most influential former military figures are under investigation after allegedly boasting about their ability to secure arms contracts for private firms in violation of British law.

The “generals for hire” scandal broke late Saturday following the publication of a Sunday Times investigation that used hidden cameras to capture the alleged claims by the men, all recently retired military officers.

The Ministry of Defence moved quickly Sunday to distance itself from the alleged actions of the retired generals, saying an investigation was under way.

“Equipment is procured in the interests of our Armed Forces and not in the interests of retired personnel. Former military officers have no influence over what (ministry) contracts are awarded,” said Philip Hammond, the defense secretary.

In Britain, military personnel are required to wait two years after leaving the service before taking a job where their former position may give their employer or clients an advantage.

The Sunday Times says its three-month investigation focused on “the revolving door between the Ministry of Defence and private arms companies.”

Among those named in the newspaper’s investigation was recently retired Lt. Gen. Sir John Kiszely, a Falklands war hero and former head of the Defence Academy.

Kiszely allegedly confided to a reporter posing as a representative of an arms firm that he could use his role as president of the Royal British Legion to push his clients’ agenda with the prime minister and other senior officials.

Another retired military official, Lt. Gen. Richard Applegate – a former ministry procurement chief – was captured on video allegedly describing a secret lobbying campaign in parliament on behalf of an Israeli arms company.

Kiszely, Applegate and two other high-ranking former officers denied the claims, saying they did nothing wrong and always had the best interests of the services at heart, the newspaper reported.

In a statement released following the publication of The Sunday Times investigation, the Ministry of Defence said it was “looking to see if any of these individuals have broken any rules.”

“Former chiefs acting in a commercial capacity should not have any privileged access to the (ministry) and we will put in place measure to ensure this,” it said.

Journalist Nicky Robertson contributed to this report.