Call for new South African arms deal investigation

Saab Gripen takes to the air at the Farnborough Air Show, July 17th 2006 The deal involved Swedish Gripen fighter planes

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South Africa's opposition has called for new allegations of bribery surrounding the country's multi-billion dollar arms deal to be investigated.

The call comes after the Swedish company, Saab, said payments had been made through the British arms producer, BAE Systems.

BAE Systems said the matter had been fully reviewed and settled with the British authorities.

Critics say the South African arms deal will finally cost around $11bn.

On Thursday Saab issued a statement, saying it had completed an investigation, "after details emerged in the media about a contract with a South African consultant about which Saab had no prior knowledge".

Saab chief executive officer Hakan Buskhe said that about R24m ($3.5m) had been paid by BAE Systems to Saab's South African subsidiary Sanip Pty Ltd.

The payments were then transferred from Sanip Pty Ltd to a South African consultant, but the transactions were never entered into the accounts of Sanip and the payments took place without the knowledge of Saab.

Saab's president and chief executive, Hakan Buskhe, said: "A person employed by BAE Systems has without Saab's knowledge signed a for us unknown contract, signed for us up until now unknown transactions as well as signing the audited and apparently inaccurate financial statement for 2003."

Saab has handed over all the materials from the investigation to the Swedish Anti-Corruption Unit and says it will work with any further inquiry.

"Saab has a zero-tolerance policy towards irregularities. Our internal investigation and openness in this matter demonstrates how seriously we regard this," said Mr Buskhe.

BAE Systems told the BBC: "This and other matters were fully reviewed by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and formed part of the overall resolution that the company reached with the SFO in February 2010. Any questions relating to Saab and its subsidiaries should be directed to Saab."

Reacting to the revelation, South Africa's opposition party, the Democratic Alliance, called for a fresh investigation.

The party spokesman, David Maynier, said he had written to the head of the Directorate of Priority Crimes, calling on him to act on the new information.

Andrew Feinstein, a former member of parliament for the African National Congress who led an earlier official probe into the arms deal, welcomed the new information.

"If an investigation is reopened in Sweden it could prove an embarrassment to a number of countries," he said.

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