Corruption In Sweden….

Posted on March 30, 2009. Filed under: 1 |

More than five years ago, a team of Swedish investigative journalists got a tip from an anonymous source that there was something illegal at the heart of one of Sweden’s biggest arms deals. The Swedish aerospace company, Saab (unrelated to the car manufacturer of the same name) and the British defense contractor, BAE Systems, had been negotiating to sell a number of Gripen jet fighters to the Czech Republic. Rumors of improprieties had surfaced around previous Gripen deals, but nothing had ever been proven. The source that came forward had worked on the Gripen deal in The Czech Republic, and claimed that he had intimate details of how a systematic campaign of illegal payments had been used to influence politicians.

The subsequent deal to lease Gripen jet fighters was important not only for the aircraft manufacturers, but also for the Swedish government. The Gripen project has become the largest industrial venture in Sweden, costing Swedish taxpayers an estimated $15 billion, and the government was anxious to offset some of the financial burden. With the Czech deal, it was also a chance for Sweden to break into the NATO market for the first time.

The reporters’ investigation culminated in the documentary series, “Gripen: The Secret Deals,” which uncovered a massive network of alleged bribes, shell corporations and secret contracts around the marketing of the Gripen aircraft. Using hidden cameras, the reporters posed as business intelligence agents and were able to capture what seems to be an on-air confirmation from Jan Kavan, a prominent Czech politician and former president of the United Nations General Assembly, describing how Czech politicians across the political spectrum had accepted bribes to approve the Gripen deal. The reporters also tracked down an array of contracts signed by the then-marketing director of Saab, which detailed multimillion dollar commissions promised to agents if the deal was successful.

When it aired in 2007, the documentary caused an international outcry and prompted prosecutors in at least seven countries to open investigations into the suspected bribery. Investigations are ongoing in Sweden, the Czech Republic, Britain, South Africa, Switzerland, Austria and the United States. Last week, the international investigations yielded its first arrest. Count Alfons Mensdorff-Pouilly, a BAE lobbyist profiled in the film, was arrested in Austria for alleged money laundering and bribery in the Gripen deals.

Both SAAB and BAE Systems have denied any wrongdoing and say that they continue to cooperate with investigators. Kavan, the Czech politician who described the bribery that allegedly occurred in his country, has said that he was just passing on his personal speculations and that he has no evidence any corruption took place.

Reporters Joachim Dyfvermark, Sven Bergman and Fredrik Laurin won the “Stora Journalistpriset,” Sweden’s most prestigious journalism award, for their work on “Gripen: The Secret Deals.”

 Peter Karlsson, Gripen International

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