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Czech police examine new facts in Gripen fighter bribery case

Czech police say new facts have come to light in a five-year-old bribery investigation linked to the planned purchase of Gripen fighter jets from Saab AB and BAE Systems Plc.

The Czech Republic agreed with the Swedish government, Saab AB and BAE Systems Plc in 2004 to lease 14 Gripen fighter jets over 10 years. An earlier plan to buy 24 Gripen fighters was scrapped after floods forced Czech authorities to use the money set aside for the aircraft for municipal repairs instead. UK defense company BAE holds a 20% stake in Saab, a Swedish engineering company.
The planned purchase came under investigation in 2002 because of bribery allegations, Alena Vokrackova, a police spokeswoman, said in a statement on the Czech authority's Web site yesterday. Nothing was proven and the case was „put on hold,” she said. „Unknown and unchecked facts have appeared in this matter, as well as new statements of involved people,” she said in the statement. Czech police now „are continuing to look into the matter.”
Saab spokesman Peter Larsson declined to comment, referring to a statement released earlier yesterday on an investigation in Sweden. BAE Media Relations Director John Neilson said BAE can't add to comments from February 20, when both companies denied any wrongdoing in response to a report by the Financial Times that Sweden is probing Saab in connection with BAE's dealings in the Czech Republic.
Sweden is investigating a plan from 2001 to sell Gripen fighters to the Czech army, a contract that was later canceled, the FT said on February 20, citing Swedish Chief Prosecutor Christen van der Kwast. Czech police are assisting with a British probe into allegations involving Saab, Vokrackova said in the statement without elaborating. (Bloomberg)