Volvo Execs Accused Of Bribery

Three Volvo executives charged with bribery in relation to the U.N. oil-for-food program during Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq, court papers said Friday.

STOCKHOLM (AP) -- A Swedish prosecutor has charged three Volvo executives with bribery in relation to the U.N. oil-for-food program during Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq, court papers said Friday.

Prosecutor Christer van der Kwast said the men, employed in the Volvo Construction Equipment International AB unit, paid out hundreds of thousands of euros in exchange for contracts between 2000 and 2002, thereby committing "grave sanction breach" -- the formal charge.

The men, who were not named, allegedly gave several Iraqi ministries payouts for contracts through false companies, thus breaking U.N. sanctions, according to court papers obtained Friday by The Associated Press. The charges were laid at the Eskilstuna District Court near Stockholm on Thursday.

It was not immediately clear what punishment the men would face if found guilty. Van der Kwast has reportedly said he would demand prison sentences.

Van der Kwast said the breaches of U.N. sanctions by the men had been "systematic ... and included so-called kickbacks to be paid out to Iraq, violating valid U.N. sanctions."

The $64 billion oil-for-food program ran between 1996-2003 and allowed Iraq to sell oil in exchange for humanitarian goods such as food and medicine. It was meant to alleviate the suffering of ordinary Iraqis caused by U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.

However, Saddam's regime corrupted the program by accepting bribes and choosing the buyers of Iraqi oil and sellers of humanitarian goods.

The Volvo unit was one of some 2,200 companies listed in a 2005 U.N.-backed investigation as having colluded with Saddam's government. The report said the companies in the probe paid a total $1.8 billion in kickbacks and illicit surcharges to Iraq.

The inquiry unveiled documents showing just how troubled the oil-for-food program had been, turning the issue over to the home governments of the companies involved, allowing them to request documents and other materials for their own prosecution bodies.

Other Swedish companies mentioned in the report included engineering company Atlas Copco AB and truck maker Scania AB. Van der Kwast told Svenska Dagbladet he would make a decision on whether to bring charges against Scania shortly.

Last year, Volvo agreed to pay $19.6 million in settlement to the U.S. government to resolve issues related to the oil-for-food program.

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