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GRIPEN

Swiss will press on with Swedish fighter jet deal

Switzerland is planning to press ahead with its controversial purchase of 22 Swedish JAS Gripen fighter jets, despite a highly critical parliamentary report into the deal released on Tuesday.

Swiss will press on with Swedish fighter jet deal

The parliamentary security commission found that the “choice of jet made by the Federal Council carries the most risks: technically, commercially, financially and in respect of the delivery date”, Swiss news agency ATS reported.

The members of the commission, all appointed by the Swiss parliament’s National Council of representatives, nonetheless voted 16 to 9 against demanding that ministers put a halt to the deal.

Defence minister Ueli Maurer who is in charge of the dossier said that negotiations with Sweden were “reaching their conclusion (and) will allow us to resolve any outstanding issues”.

Swedish manufacturer Saab Group’s Gripen, not available before 2020, was selected over the French Dassault Rafale and the EADS Eurofighter, sparking much debate in the Swiss parliament.

The purchase price, some 3.126 billion francs ($3.25 billion), has been guaranteed not to change, he said, adding that the Gripen “was the cheapest” option compared with both Dassault Rafale and the Eurofighter.

Opponents of the JAS Gripen purchase announced that they would seek to hold a national referendum on the deal.

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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.