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BRAZIL

Brazil election delays Gripen fighter decision

Brazil is to wait until after the completion of the presidential elections at the end of October before deciding on a multi-billion-dollar fighter jet purchase, defence minister Nelson Jobim said on Wednesday.

Brazil election delays Gripen fighter decision

Outgoing President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva needs to discuss the matter with whoever is elected to succeed him in an October 31st runoff, Jobim told a seminar of senior military officers and private sector defense contractors in Sao Paulo.

“When the second round is over we are going to examine the issue of the F-X,” he said, referring to the code of the tender to supply Brazil’s air force with 36 modern fighters.

“The execution of the FX will be in under the new government, and so the president needs to speak with the new president-elect about the FX,” he said.

Three finalists are battling it out for the Brazilian contract, which is worth an estimated four billion to seven billion dollars.

France’s Rafale made by Dassault was seen leading the race against Sweden’s Gripen NG by Saab and the F/A-18 Super Hornet manufactured by US giant Boeing

ever since Lula last year said it was his preferred choice.

But the French bid’s prospects have faded as Brazil’s electoral calendar has taken over, and after the air force made clear through leaks to the media that it preferred the cheaper Swedish jet.

Brazil, which has an option to increase the purchase by up to another 100 aircraft, is insisting that the deal involve a transfer of technology so it can build up its own aviation sector.

Lula’s chosen candidate, Dilma Rousseff, his former cabinet chief, currently leads the race for the presidency, with a solid lead over challenger Jose Serra, the former governor of Sao Paulo state.

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CORRUPTION

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.