Suspected Jas Gripen bribe in HSBC account

A man allegedly involved in bribery over the sale of Swedish fighter jets to South Africa is the latest name to emerge from the HSBC Swiss secret bank accounts scandal that has gripped the global financial world.

Suspected Jas Gripen bribe in HSBC account
JAS Gripen jets were sold to South Africa in 1999. Photo: Magnus Hjalmarson Neideman/SvD/TT

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Around 100 million kronor ($12,000) has been found in three Swiss bank accounts belonging to Fana Hlongwane, according to Swedish Radio news programme Ekot. The cash is suspected to be illegal payments from Swedish defence giant Saab's partner BAE.

The information comes just a few days after The Local reported that several prominent Swedes were revealed to have owned secret bank accounts in Switzerland, including national footballer Andreas Andersson.

This emerged after a data leak showed that HSBC’s private bank in Switzerland had catered to clients seeking to evade taxes and those who were involved in money laundering, financing terrorism and drugs and arms trafficking.

Read about how the HSBC tax scandal unfolded

Ekot reported on Thursday that Swiss authorities have connected the money in Hlongwane's accounts to the sale of Swedish Jas Gripen fighter jets to South Africa.

Suspected bribes of 1.5 billion kronor were allegedly paid out to various agents in the deal, among them Hlongwane, who was an adviser to the South African government at the time. He could not be reached for a comment, said Ekot, but has previously denied any involvement in bribery.

“Saab viewed Hlongwane as the person who would be able to seal the final parts of the deal. At the same time as Hlongwane reported his success to Saab, the bank accounts in Switzerland were opened,” former South African MP Andrew Feinsten, who has been involved in investigating the deal, told Ekot.

Saab sold 28 Jas Gripen jets to South Africa in 1999, a deal that has long been tainted by bribery allegations. The company has denied making any economic transactions to Hlongwane.

“We have not had a particularly significant relationship with Hlongwane, but we have met him as part of various projects as far as we can tell from our records,” Saab press officer Sebastin Carlsson told Ekot on Thursday.