Companies Accused of Iraq Bribes

Swedish truck and bus maker AB Volvo has admitted that the company made payments through its former agent in Iraq to Saddam Hussein’s regime under the UN Oil-for-food programme, but said on Friday that it did not consider it bribery.

Volvo construction equipment was one of more than 2,000  companies listed as having colluded with Saddam’s government in a scathing report by the committee investigating the oil for food programme which ran from 1996 to 2003.

Volvo spokesman Marten Wikforss told AFP that the company was still investigating what exactly took place. He stressed however that Volvo, which also makes buses and aircraft and boat engines, did not consider the payments as bribes.

”It was considered a tax or a charge that had to be paid in order to do business in Iraq. It was called the ’10 percent system, it was not seen as bribes,” Wikforss said.

He insisted that Volvo does not condone bribery. ”We do not use bribes when it comes to business deals. That is not okay, that is not acceptable,” he said.

”Alarm bells should have gone off but they didn’t, since no one considered it to be bribery. But we are looking into that now,” he said.

A number of other Swedish companies or their subsidiaries, including industrial group Atlas Copco Airpower and pharmaceuticals company Astra Zeneca, were also named in the UN report.

Swedish prosecutors also said they would review the U.N. report to determine whether any of the Swedish companies listed had broken national laws. Foreign Minister Leila Freivalds said it was ”completely unacceptable” if Swedish companies had paid bribes.

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