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SWITZERLAND

New snag for Swiss deal on Swedish jet fighters

Switzerland's purchase of 22 Swedish fighter jets hit a new snag Tuesday as the Swiss parliament suspended funding discussions, amid reports that EADS was trying to undercut the deal by offering used fighters at half-price.

New snag for Swiss deal on Swedish jet fighters

The security policy commission of the lower house of the Swiss parliament overwhelmingly voted Tuesday to suspend discussions about how to raise the 3.1 billion Swiss francs ($3.3 billion) needed to buy the JAS-39 Gripen combat jets.

With 20 votes in favour and three opposed, the commission voted to suspend the discussions until its next session at the end of August to give it time to seek clarification from the defence ministry on elements of the contract, commission president Chantal Gallade told the ATS news agency.

The news came amid unconfirmed Swiss reports that the EADS consortium has offered to sell 22 used Eurofighters to Switzerland for just 1.5 billion Swiss francs.

Switzerland announced last August that it had agreed to the highly controversial deal to replace its ageing Northrop F-5E/F Tiger fighters, with deliveries set to start in 2018.

The Swiss Gripen purchase, which is part of a larger order for the planes to be shared with Sweden in a bid to cut production costs, is controversial in Switzerland because it will require spending cuts in other areas.

There are also concerns about what kind of guarantees the Swedish government can offer, since defence firm Saab is still developing the new Gripen jet series, and what kind of penalties will be imposed if either side fails to live up to their side of the deal.

The deal must receive a green light from the entire Swiss parliament and could possibly still be derailed by a popular referendum.

It already hit a bump in the runway last month when the upper house of the Swiss parliament approved the purchase but refused to release the funds needed.

And if the reports that EADS is trying to undercut the Gripen deal are correct, Swiss President and Defence Minister Ueli Maurer could see his main argument for pushing ahead with the Swedes — that their bid is the cheapest — fall apart.

AFP/The Local/dl

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CARS

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT
The pair are accused of falsifying the paperwork at the height of the Swedish company's financial difficulties at the start of the decade.
 
A third person – who has not been named in the Swedish media – is accused of assisting them by issuing false invoices adding up to a total of 30 million kronor ($3.55m).
 
According to court documents, the charges relate to the firm's business in Ukraine and the paperwork in question was signed just before former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson resigned.
 
Both Jonsson and Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have admitted signing the papers but denied knowledge of the Ukranian firm implicated in the case.
 
All three suspects deny all the charges against them.
 

Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers. Photo:  Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
 
Saab filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2011, after teetering on the edge of collapse for nearly two years.
 
Chief prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the court in Vänersborg on Wednesday that the alleged crimes took place in March 2011, when Saab was briefly owned by the Dutch company Spyker Cars.
  
It was eventually bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), a Chinese-owned company after hundreds of staff lost their jobs.
 
The car maker, which is based in west Sweden, has struggled to resolve serious financial difficulties by attracting new investors since the takeover.
 
In October 2014 it announced it had axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce.
 
Since 2000, Saab automobile has had no connection with the defence and aeronautics firm with the same name. It only produces one model today, the electric 9-3 Aero Sedan, mainly targeting the Chinese market.