A Jas 39 Gripen fighter jer. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Swiss referendum on Jas Gripen deal

Jas Gripen champions return Saab donation

Saab's involvement in a Swiss referendum which could determine whether or not the country purchases 22 new Jas Gripen fighter jets has caused so much controversy that the Yes-campaign has decided to return the around SEK 1.4 million which Saab donated to it.

At a Tuesday press conference in Bern, Swiss Minister of Defence Uli Maurer said that Saab had paid the money to the Swiss Yes committee, but he also said that the donation has since been returned.

Maurer told Swedish Radio News that the committee had decided to return the money since foreign meddling in Swiss referendums is regarded as extremely contentious.

"We concluded that this is not possible, that it will be seen as inappropriate meddling in the campaign," said Maurer.

Maurer also emphasised that it is important that Saab and Sweden in no way finance or get involved in the referendum campaign.

"I do not want to lose this referendum because of a few 100,000 Franc," said Maurer.

The Bern press conference marked the start of the government's campaign ahead of the May referendum, but the Yes-side will also be represented by a committee which is made up of several smaller defence-friendly organisations around Switzerland. Saab's donation was earmarked for this committee.

The Swiss No-side is due to introduce its campaign soon, too, and Maurer believes the referendum will be a close call. That is why any medling from Sweden or Saab could have great negative consequences for the Yes-side.

The referendum will take place on May 18th.

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