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Sweden 'knew of oil-for-food payoffs'

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10:45 CEST+02:00
Some 14 Swedish firms are under investigation for violating the United Nations' sanctions under the Oil-for-Food Programme by paying Iraq illegal fees to do business in the country. Now the Swedish government is being drawn into the fray for reportedly knowing about the illegal payoffs and not stopping them.

The Oil-for-Food Programme was founded in 1996 to allow Saddam Hussein's regime to sell oil, with the condition that the money was used to buy food, medicines and other essential supplies. It ended after American-led forces invaded Iraq in 2003.

In 2000, Iraq secretly informed countries that if companies wanted to continue business in the country they would have to pay a fee of up to 10 percent on the side or risk being blackballed

Sweden's government was told of the move, but no action was taken, according to Swedish Radio.

A Swedish Foreign Ministry official who spoke with Swedish Radio said the country didn't want to act in fear that companies would be blacklisted.

Last fall a UN report was published detailing how 2,200 firms, among them 14 Swedish companies, paid a total of 11 billion kronor in illegal fees to the corrupt Iraqi regime.

“If this had gone up to a high level, to the Foreign Ministry or to the Foreign Minister, if the Foreign Ministry had had knowledge of this and warned the UN or its Security Council, I think this could have been stopped,” said Nils Erik Schultz, the regional prosecutor leading the investigation against the companies.

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