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LIBYA CRISIS

LIBYA

Sweden’s Gripen aircraft reach Sicily

All eight Swedish JAS Gripen fighters have landed at a base in Siciliy and are now under NATO command. They can be in the airspace over Libya by the middle of next week, reported news agency TT.

Sweden's Gripen aircraft reach Sicily

The first three JAS Gripen fighters landed Saturday afternoon at Sigonella base in Sicily. “We flew via a base in Hungary and landed there, and then later continued to Sicily,” Anders Silwer, head of the Swedish air force, told TT.

A Gulfstream also flew down to Sigonella with technicians and security personnel.

Five other Gripen fighters arrived Sunday and an additional four Hercules planes are currently on their way to Sicily.

Silwer told TT that it is likely that two Swedish flying officers each will be placed at three combat control centers – in Napels and outside Venice in Italy, and at Izmir in Turkey.

The Swedish Armed Forces are now analyzing which of NATO’s mission rules the Swedish pilots will follow. Later the pilots will be educated on the rules before they start to fly in the area.

Nine of the ten pilots who are participating in the operation have chosen to remain anonymous under the mission.

“It’s a way for the pilots and their families to have some peace from the media,” Johan Svetoft, Head of the F17 base in Kallinge, told Swedish Radio (Sveriges Radio) in Blekinge.

Criticism has arisen because the JAS Gripen fighters only can attack enemy fighter planes at a time when Qaddafi’s air force is likely destroyed.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt said that he needed a broad majority in parliament, adding that the Social Democrats set those limits to support the mission.

“Then I had to kind of hold them back within the Moderate and other Alliance parties who also thought that Sweden should take a more offensive role,” he told TT.

Reinfeldt would not air his personal opinions on the question except to say that broad support was most important. He added that a no-fly zone must be monitored and that altercations can occur.

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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.