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GRIPEN

Swiss pick Saab’s Gripen fighter

The Swiss government on Wednesday confirmed their intention to purchase 22 Swedish Saab Gripen Fighter jets, choosing the less expensive Swedish plane over the Eurofighter or the Rafaele.

Swiss pick Saab's Gripen fighter

”What is good for Sweden and other countries must also be good for Switzerland,” said minister for defence Ueli (Ulrich) Mauer at a press conference on Wednesday.

According to Mauer it was Gripen’s qualities, price, as well as the industrial relationship with the Saab defence group that clinched the deal.

Rumours regarding the purchase were circulating already early on Wednesday, making defence and security company Saab stocks surge on market.

News agency TT reported that the local papers estimated the sale being worth close to 22 billion Swedish kronor ($3.29 billion).

The Swiss decision to go with Gripen was controversial and local Swiss media pointed out that it would cost Switzerland significantly less than would the same number of the Eurofighter or the French Rafaele.

Gripen allegedly didn’t do that well in two of the tests performed, but the fighter’s advocates argue that the aircraft has previously done better and that it is the overall performance that would count.

However, critics claim that the price tag ultimately closed the deal.

”The purchase of Gripen might not mean that we get the best fighter plane in Europe. But we’ll have a plane that meets our expectations – and we haven’t planned to break any world records in this area,” Mauer said at the press conference.

Before the Swiss press conference the Saab group said they were aware of what the Swiss papers were claiming but wouldn’t confirm nor deny the information until official confirmation had been received.

According to the company website, the Saab group will hold a press conference later on Wednesday in Stockholm.

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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.