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Saab admits R24-million bribe paid to clinch arms deal

Swedish defence group Saab on Thursday admitted that millions were paid to clinch a South African contract for fighter jets but said its erstwhile British partner BAE Systems had paid the bribes.

Saab said R24-million had been paid by BAE in the form of bonuses and salaries between 2003 and 2005 for the deal involving 26 JAS Gripen fighters.

The comments came after Sweden’s TV4 television channel said it had evidence Saab had promised to pay Fana Hlongwane, then advisor to the South African defence minister and also serving as a consultant to the Swedish firm, millions of euros in bonuses if Pretoria did not back out of the Gripen deal.

Saab said R24-million had been paid by its South African subsidiary Sanip, which was then controlled by BAE Systems.

Saab president and chief executive Haakan Bushke denied responsibility, saying in a statement: “A person employed by BAE systems has without Saab’s knowledge signed for us an unknown contract, signed for us up until now unknown transactions …”

BAE Systems said last week it had sold its stake in Saab for £152-million.

The 1999 deal with South Africa provided for the sale of 28 jets for about R15.5-billion but this was later whittled down to 26. The last plane is due to be delivered next year. — AFP

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