Volvo execs charged for Saddam-era bribes

Volvo execs charged for Saddam-era bribes
Three executives from Volvo’s construction equipment subsidiary have been charged for paying bribes to the regime of Saddam Hussein to skirt restrictions related to the United Nations’ Oil-for-Food Programme.

The three have been under investigation by Sweden’s National Anti-Corruption Unit (Riksenheten mot corruption) for the past three years and could face jail time if convicted, according to the Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) newspaper.

The UN Oil-for-Food Programme was designed to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people during a UN embargo against trade with Iraq.

Launched in 1995, the programme allowed the limited sale of oil in exchange for food, medicine, and other essential goods.

But shortly after it began, the regime in Iraq began demanding supplemental charges on various contracts.

Around 2,200 companies around the world have been exposed for paying bribes in order to do business in Iraq, including 15 Swedish companies, with Volvo, Scania, and Atlas Copco featuring most prominently.

While the executives from Volvo are the first to be formally charged, prosecutors expect a decision regarding managers at Scania to be made soon as well.

“Volvo will be a pilot case for Sweden. It will be decisive for continuing with proceedings,” said chief prosecutor Christer van der Kwast to SvD.

All other investigations into Swedish companies’ alleged wrongdoing during the Oil-for-Food Programme have been abandoned.

The indicted Volvo executives are with Volvo Construction Equipment International AB.

In the early 2000s, the company is suspected of having paid bribes worth 20 million kronor ($2.2 million) to win contracts for 145 wheel loaders and 43 road graders.

Van der Kwast plans to argue for prison sentences because he views a crime which violates certain international sanctions as serious.

In March 2008, Volvo was forced to pay US authorities $19.6 million in fines, as well as return past profits with interest from contracts related to the bribery scandal.