Swedish prosecutor to investigate Iraq bribes

The Director of Public Prosecutions, Christer van der Kwast, is to investigate claims that Swedish companies paid bribes to former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein's regime, in contravention of international sanctions against the country.

A number of companies have been accused of breaching the Oil for Food sanctions. Among them are the Swedish, or part-Swedish, firms Astra Zeneca, Volvo and Atlas Copco. Subsidiaries of Saab, Mölnlycke and Scania have also been named.

“We shall consider whether there are legal grounds for a criminal investigation in Sweden,” said Christer van der Kwast.

Van der Kwast emphasised that the matter is complicated, but said that he will be looking into whether the alleged bribery occurred within a timeframe which still allows for prosecutions to be brought, and whether there are Swedish or Sweden-based people involved.

“I can only take the statements at face value,” he said.

“But I assume they carry a certain weight because they come from a major UN investigation committee. They have requested that the countries involved take appropriate measures.”

The Swedish Anti-Corruption Institute said however that it may be difficult to press charges since many of the Swedish companies used local middlemen or agents.

“It seems to be the case that the Swedish companies used middlemen, free agents and retailers. One could argue that this is something that is not illegal for the Swedish companies or their subsidiaries,” the institute’s deputy chairman Jan Persson told TT.

The companies accused by the committee have begun responding to the allegations.

One of the companies is the British-Swedish pharmaceutical company, Astra Zeneca, which is accused of paying bribes to the Iraqi regime of over $162,000.

“We won’t understand in what respect we are supposed to be involved until we’ve had time to check all the details,” said head of information, Staffan Ternby to TT.

“The fact is, food and medicine were the products which were exempt from the sanction measures against Iraq and I know that the occasional contact which we had with Iraq in the middle of the 90s was mostly to do with trying to get payment for previous deliveries,” he said.

In a statement, industrial equipment comapny Atlas Copco said it “strongly objected to the assumption made by the Committee” and that internal investigations had shown that there were no payments made to the Iraqi government by the company.

“Atlas Copco Airpower in Belgium has been subject to an investigation by the Committee, ” wrote the company’s Legal Counsel, Hans Sandberg.

“The processes for the contract handling under the Program, all formally approved by the UN for payment by Letter of Credit, have been explained in detail.”

The company said it would continue its internal inquiry and stressed that “payments by Atlas Copco of the nature now in question are in direct conflict with the Atlas Copco Group’s written Business Code of Practice, and are never tolerated”.

Meanwhile, Volvo said that it was taking the accusations seriously.

“We are now investigating the matter more closely to determine what has happened,” says Volvo’s CEO Leif Johansson.

“If it is confirmed that the accusations are valid and improper actions have occurred, we will naturally take actions.”


Danish engineers first to be jabbed under voluntary vaccine scheme

Twenty employees of the Danish engineering firm Lowenco, together with their boss Mikael Hoier, on Sunday became the first people to be given the Johnson & Johnson vaccine under Denmark’s new optional vaccination scheme.

Danish engineers first to be jabbed under voluntary vaccine scheme
Practio co-founder Jonas Nilsen said that the employees had all been given detailed adviuce before they were given the jab. Photo: Practio

The group wanted to get vaccinated so that they can travel to India to install 20 freezers at a vaccine factory.

“It went pretty well, pretty calm and then a little prick,” Hoier, director of Lowenco, told state broadcaster DR.

After undergoing a medical consultation on Saturday, the group were given the green light to get vaccinated on Sunday.

“They all had many questions about potential side effects and the pros and cons of receiving the vaccine,” said Jonas Nilsen, a doctor and co-founder of Practio, which has been given the task of vaccinating Danes under the new optional scheme.


After thinking over the decision overnight, two of the company’s employees opted against receiving the vaccine. 

“That is absolutely OK by me. It’s a personal decision and it won’t go against them,” Hoier said. 

Practio doctors advised the company to delay their departure to India to the end of this week, so the vaccine has more time to take effect, and they do not suffer complications during their trip.

“There is a chance that someone will be affected by side effects such as headaches, fever and soreness shortly after being injected,” he said.

Sunday’s vaccinations were carried out at Sønderbro Apotek in Copenhagen, and from Monday, vaccinations will be given at Practio’s own vaccine site in Copenhagen, where up to 5,000 people can be vaccinated a day.

The company plans to soon open vaccination centres in Roskilde, Odense, Aarhus and Aalborg. 

On Sunday, Nilsen told Norwegian broadcaster NRK that more than 20,000 people in Denmark had already put themselves down on the list for an optional vaccination, and said that his company is capable of treating about 70,000 vaccination patients a day.