Sweden: Uncovering the Secret Deals

How reporters exposed massive corruption in one of Sweden's biggest arms deals.

March 10, 2009
Sweden: Uncovering the Secret Deals
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.
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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.

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 (Laurin is interviewed in the accompanying video) won the "Stora Journalistpriset," Sweden's most prestigious journalism award, for their work on "Gripen: The Secret Deals."

PHOTO CREDIT: Peter Karlsson, Photo Copyright Gripen International

Sweden: Uncovering the Secret Deals

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Corruption is the great enemy of democracy. If we want honest taxpayers, fair and honest business dealings, honest contracting, then we must disavow corruption. Else we cannot have a working economic system. Corruption at high up will trickle down and infect all of society: judges, police, businessmen, government workers, doctors, politicians, and churchmen, basically everybody. Finally it will totally undermine democracy.

In one part of the Frontline series on corruption it was chilling to hear a British lord, a crook really, making excuses for the corrupt practices of BAE. God save their Queen indeed with people like him around.

Jake Balao - Ormond Beach, USA
Using "CULTURE" as a justifiable excuse to tolerate injustice against your fellowman is just plain selfish. How one can tolerate injustice is beyond any HUMAN comprehension.

Jorgen Hansen - Copenhagen, DK
"Sweden - Uncoevering the Secret Deals" is an interesting story, indeed.
And excellent language by the translator.

Franklin Liao - Burnaby, Canada
I simply cannot agree with Yi Ma about merely underwriting corruption by giving any legitimacy since this is not awarding actual work performer. The consequences in incompetent leadership, complacency in results of projects and stifling of legitimate competition are serious enough that the senior CCP leadership had to officially leash the party from this unchecked habit of pocketing kickbacks.
This arms corruption matter is no simple issue, and the global military-industrial complex embrace this as a common practice. Even if no conviction will come out of this case, the media exposure hopefully can force people away from ignorance and indifference about inter-governmental corruption and hold their governments accountable over bureaucrats and politicians alike pocketing what is public money into their own pockets.

This is not suprising because arms dealing is a proponent of state capitalism. And this tendencies are dominant in Western countries.

portharcourt, Nigeria
Like them!

Tom Sou - Oslo, Norway
Any evidence at all ? Somehow I doubt this story. Especially since investigations in other countries have not found anything.

Paul OSullivan - Johannesburg, South Africa
And, whilst millions starve, these scum bank their profits.
They must all spend many years in prison, or be forced to starve, like they have forced others to starve.

Nidhirat Jirawattanakhan - Bangkok, Thailand
Unsurprisingly Thailand has not launched an investigation into its massive purchase of Gripen jets. Likely because the coup-makers/Surayud government arranged the purchase.

Richard Hind - Cape Town, South Africa
I thought South Africa was the only country involved on a corrupt basis with Gripen. The rule with international arms deals is always rife with bribes. Thats the way Africa works, they like to call it bartering.

The Swede - Stockholm, Sweden
Only a global "ethical revolution" can save this planet we live on from corruption and bribery !

Nairobi, Kenya
Corruption is the name of the game; the Third World bears the brunt of it. People die for want of healthcare, the states remain retarded technologically, and people starve, while politicians are making billions on 'White Elephant' projects for the cut. Put plainly, whether on Judeo-Christian ethics, corruption is bane and murder for the poor, and the epitome of greed in man!

to Anshan: Is there not a difference between discipline and tolerance?
true: these reports maybe judging with their own Judeo-Christian ethic. but what ethics are you using? Or is this a cultural rift between Westerners and China?The objective questions are: were the prices fair? Do the accounting books account for all transactions? Was their deliberate action to coerce public officials or policy for finical gain?And yes, can you please explain to me the Chinese concept of integrity?

Frank S. - Chicago, IL
Obviously, bribery in international weapon dealing is more common than thought. Especially in big corporations such as G.E. or Boeing. Seeing a resulting investigation is very rare. With that, I applaud the brave reporting that transpired. It might even be fair to say that they risked their own lives. Keep up the great work!

doug hilderman - west st paul, canada
My reaction: Is anybody actually surprised at any of this still? I have never heard of so much corruption as I have in the last few years. I wonder if someday we will revert to life as it was back when. Doubt it.

Alexander B. - Oslo, Norway
Thanks for this story, and the link to the SVT. As you may be aware Norway recently picked the US JSF which was one of 3 available choices, including the JAS Gripen. It would be interesting to learn how SAAB/BAE conducted themselves in these proceedings, and also what made us ultimately pick JSF.

Yi Ma - Anshan, China
Come on guys. These reporters are judging these people by the standards of their own Judeo-Christian ethic. I live in China, where 'bribery' is simply the way things are done. It is so rooted in Chinese culture as to be officially institutionalised, almost to the point of being codified in law.Tolerance is always preached loudest by the intolerant.


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