Speculation at the time of the release of Abdel Baset Al-Megrahi centered around the notion that Libya would grant BP oil certain concessions in exchange for their help in getting the bomber released, as well as provide other British companies with goodies.
Apparently, according to Wikileaks documents, that's only the half of it:
A cable by U.S. diplomat Richard LeBaron reveals that Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi made "thuggish" threats to kill all trade deals with Britain and harass its embassy staff in Tripoli if no release was forthcoming. In 2008, Mr. LeBaron wrote to Washington that "The Libyans have told [Her Majesty's Government] flat out that there will be 'enormous repercussions' for the UK-Libya bilateral relationship if Megrahi's early release is not handled properly."
Although the Libyans combined their threats with an offer of "treats" for Scottish authorities in exchange for Megrahi's release, the U.S. cables indicate that the Scots turned the offer down. British ministers weren't so honorable. When they faced international outrage over the release, they tried to deflect blame for it onto the Scots. British Prime Minister Gordon Brown hid behind the fact that Scotland has control of its own criminal justice system and said that his government "could not interfere and had no control over the final outcome."
But the cables reveal that it was British ministers who nudged Alex Salmond, the Scottish Nationalist minister, to take the political heat for releasing Megrahi. U.S. diplomats were told by Jack Straw, who was British Justice Secretary at the time, that Megrahi might live another five years after any release, but the decision was still made to let him go.
While it's true that Britain kept its trade deals with Libya, the episode is now revealed to be another example of a democracy knuckling under to a dictator's threats. The latest revelations only embolden other dictators to use the same tactics in the future.
No wonder Gaddafi holds the west in such contempt.
Hat Tip: Ed Lasky