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LIBYA CRISIS

LIBYA

Swedish Gripen planes headed to Libya

Three Swedish fighter jets headed Saturday to Sardinia en route to taking part in NATO operations against the regime of Libyan strongman Muammar Qaddafi, a military spokesman said.

Swedish Gripen planes headed to Libya

The three JAS Gripen fighters, of a total nine aircraft pledged by Sweden,

took off at 10.00am from the Ronneby base on Sweden’s southern

coast, army spokesman Rickard Wissman told AFP.

Another five Gripens and a C-130 Hercules usable for mid-air refueling were

to leave early Sunday, he said.

“Those that come first can in principal start to work already on Sunday, but it’s up to NATO to decide when that will happen,” Wissman told news agency TT

The deployment, decided Tuesday by the Swedish government, won

parliamentary approval on Friday.

Sweden’s role will be limited to enforcing the no-fly zone over Libya and

will not involve any ground strikes as demanded by the left-wing opposition.

The mission involving some 130 support troops will fly under NATO command

and last three months at most. Wissman said Sweden would also provide “reconnaissance means” in a form to be decided.

Sweden is not a member of NATO, although it has been in NATO’s

Partnership for Peace programme since 1994 and has contributed some 500 troops to the alliance’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) force in

Afghanistan.

Sweden also took part in operations in Kosovo.

Nevertheless Sweden’s air force has not been involved in action since it

took part in a UN-mandated operation in the then Belgian Congo from 1961-63.

The Libyan operation will be the first combat tour for the JAS Gripen 39,

produced by the Swedish defence group Saab.

Sweden’s Nordic neighbours Denmark and Norway are already taking part in

Libyan air operations.

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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.