Bildt plugs Swedish fighter on Brazil visit

Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt argued the advantages of the Gripen NG jet fighter over rivals from the USA and France while on a visit to Brazil.

The Gripen offered “the possibility of a strategic alliance” because of how involved Brazilian industry could be in its assembly, Bildt said during a visit to Brazil’s capital Brasilia.

Unlike the Dassault Rafale being offered by France and the Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet put forward by the United States in a tender about to be decided by Brazil, the Gripen NG has yet to go into production.

That offered great opportunities for Brazilian businesses to contribute to its manufacture, Bildt stressed in a joint news conference with Brazilian counterpart Celso Amorim.

Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has already declared his preference for France’s Rafale to win the tender to supply 36 modern fighters to his country’s air force, in part because of Brazil’s strategic alliance with France.

But a final decision, involving his national security council, has not yet been made.

The contract is expected to be worth in the range of $4 billion to $7 billion.

Brazil is keen to win technology transfer out of the deal and Dassault has said it would supply all the knowhow behind its jet.

The US technology in the F/A-18, on the other hand, is subject to oversight by the US Congress, which has in the past refused to allow Brazil to export aircraft using US components.

Although the Gripen NG is powered by a US-made engine, maker Saab has insisted there should be no barrier to the rest of the aircraft’s technology being passed on to Brazil.

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Fresh bribery claims in Swedish jet scandal

Swedish defence firm Saab paid around a billion kronor to shady middlemen as part of a controversial deal to sell fighter jets to South Africa, according to documents obtained by a Swedish tabloid.

Fresh bribery claims in Swedish jet scandal
A Jas 39 Gripen jet flies above Cape Town in South Africa. Photo: AP Photo/mbr/The Star

Saab's sale of 28 Jas 39 Gripen aircraft – later reduced to 26 – to South Africa has been tainted by scandal and corruption allegations ever since it took place back in 1999.

The Swedish defence giant has always denied any wrongdoing in the deal which was mainly carried out by a subsidiary owned by Saab and British BAE and has said that no evidence of any suspect deals has turned up in its internal investigations.

But according to Sweden's Expressen newspaper, internal BAE documents handed to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO), a UK-based government authority that investigates fraud and corruption, show that money was paid out to shady agents suspected of being involved in bribery.

According to the paperwork, 7.25 percent (or 13 billion kronor – $1.58 billion) of the total sales of the Gripen planes and the British Hawk aircraft was potentially handed over to secret agents. According to Expressen, the claims formed part of a UK investigation into bribery allegations linked to this cash.

Other classified documents published by the newspaper on Thursday suggest that BAE's former head of marketing for South Africa and Asia, Allan MacDonald, told SFO officers several years ago that Saab had been kept informed of all costs and the agents involved.

“I gave them more information than they had ever got before and they were informed about the arrangements with the agents on chief executive level. They knew,” the documents suggest he said.

In a statement to Expressen published on Thursday, Saab's press spokesman Sebastian Carlsson dismissed the claims that almost a billion kronor was handed to agents, but did not deny that large payouts were made.

“There's nothing strange about a person receiving compensation for the work they do. So I mean, that's not the problem, if there is a problem. The problem would in that case be what a person does,” he told the newspaper.

“If it was 7.5 or 6.5 or 4.5 or 10.5 percent [is irrelevant]. That's nothing, that's what it was like 'in the good old days'. But I can tell you that if back then you had these kinds of commission-based contracts in the export industry, the sums could sometimes be high,” he added.

Saab is one of the world's leading defence and security companies and has around 14,700 staff around the world. It is not connected to Saab Automobile.

Earlier this year it was ranked as one of the European arms companies best at tackling corruption by the Transparency International thinktank.