Saab charged over sale of Gripens to SA

Criminal charges were filed on Thursday against Sweden’s Saab AB for bribery after the emergence of new facts relating to the sale of Jas 39 Gripen aircraft to South Africa in 1999 and the counter-purchases that were a part of the agreement.

Aid organisation Diakonia, the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation and the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, which brought the charges, are demanding that the discontinued investigation into the sale be resumed.

Anna Ek, president of the Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society, said the deal could be the largest biggest corruption scandal yet involving a Swedish corporation. “Our nation’s chief prosecutor must leave no stone unturned in efforts to ensure the whole truth is disclosed and that those responsible are brought to justice,” Ek said

Information contained in a newly published book entitled Bribery, Power and Aid—Jas and the South Africa affair, suggests that suspicious payments were made by Saab subsidiary Sanip to South African businessman Fana Hlongwane, who has close connections with the South African political elite and served as adviser to Joe Modise, former defence minister, at the time the deal was closed.

Hlongwane has also served as a board member and CEO of the South African defence corporation Denel that was involved in the counter-purchases.

“We have warned all along that the sales of Jas to South Africa could undermine efforts at poverty reduction in that country and that the counter-purchases will not benefit the poor,” said Bo Forsberg, Diakonia secretary general. “Now it has become clear that the entire agreement was secured in a corrupt manner.”

Politicians from both sides of the politic divide in Sweden supported and devoted much diplomatic and political energy to convincing South Africa to purchase the Gripen aircraft.

The government provided export credits through EKN, the Swedish export credits guarantee board, worth 16-billion Swedish kroner, while SEK, the Swedish export credit corporation, made multibillion-kroner loans.

Elisabeth Lundgren, secretary general of the Swedish Fellowship of Reconciliation, said: “We demand that an independent citizens’ commission be formed and charged with investigating the role played by the government in these arms deals.

“A frightening silence seems to prevail, whereby decision-makers seem to protect and watch out for each other.”

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