Skanska faces Argentine bribery allegations

The management of the Swedish construction group Skanska has become embroiled in an alleged corruption scandal involving some of its former workers in Argentina, Swedish radio SR said on Tuesday.

Skanska fired seven workers for its Argentinian subsidiary after allegations that they avoided taxes and paid bribes to secure a contract for the construction of a gas pipeline in the north of the country.

The company’s former finance director in Latin America, Jose Alonso, has now charged that the Stockholm management is involved.

He claims the company paid for the workers to keep quiet by paying more than 30 million kronor ($4.04 million) in compensation and allowing them to keep their computers and mobile phones, SR reported.

The management of Skanska has denied the allegations, saying that they are unfounded, and that the compensation was paid to avoid future litigation.

The Swedish radio also said that it had seen emails exchanged between Alonso and the Skanska management after the workers were fired, adding that in the days after the emails were sent in 2006 the finance director was fired in his turn.

The corruption affair has made waves in Argentina, where top officials close to President Nestor Kirchner are suspected of involvement in the scandal.

Some 13 people have been placed under investigation in the affair which started about a year ago.

Skanska said in a statement that it was cooperating fully with the Argentinian authorities and that it had sent a dossier of more than 3,000 pages.

In Sweden a preliminary probe has been opened, SR said.