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BRAZIL

Brazil to discuss fighter jet purchase

Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva said on Wednesday that discussions would "soon" take place with his successor Dilma Rousseff with a view to deciding who would win a multi-billion-dollar fighter jet tender.

Brazil to discuss fighter jet purchase

“We are going to talk over the issue of the fighters, me, her (Rousseff) and (Defense Minister Nelson) Jobim,” he said in a joint media conference with Rousseff in Brasilia.

Brazil has pushed off for months declaring a winner in an international competition to supply it with 36 modern fighter aircraft for a value of between $4 billion and $7 billion.

France’s Rafale by Dassault, Sweden’s Gripe NG by Saab, and the US-made F/A-18 Super Hornet by Boeing are all on the shortlist for the tender.

Lula initially said a year ago that negotiations were underway to buy the Rafale, but then stepped back from that position to see through the contest.

A final decision was put on hold since March until Brazil’s presidential election was over.

Rousseff, Lula’s former cabinet chief, easily won a Sunday runoff and will take over as head of state on January 1 next year.

Both Lula and Rousseff will be attending a G20 summit in South Korea November 11-12 at which French President Nicolas Sarkozy and US President Barack Obama were also expected.

Brazil has insisted on full transfer of technology in the deal so it can build its own advanced military aircraft in the future.

Seperately, media reports indicated on Wednesday that South Africa could not afford to keep all of the 26 Gripen aircraft that it has ordered in the air. The news was based on an internal report from the country’s defence ministry.

A total of 16 Gripen aircraft have so far been delivered to South Africa.

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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.