Swedish arms company accused of bribery

The arms firm Bofors, shaken by a series of bribery allegations centered on a $1.3 billion guns contract it won from the Indian Army, pledged yesterday to clear its name with the Swedish and Indian governments. A company spokesman said in a statement that Bofors was prepared to give details of how it won the contract - Sweden's largest-ever export order - last year in the face of stiff international competition. The company made a deal to supply India with a field artillery system.

``The Indian Embassy in Stockholm and the Swedish authorities have asked for the company to give full details because of the accusations in the press of bribery in connection with the Bofors contract to India,'' the spokesman said.

The statement also said that many of the details would not be available for release to the public ``because of normal business requirements of secrecy.''

Bofors has denied the allegations of Swedish state radio that it paid up to $5 million in bribes to senior Indian officials and politicians to land the order.

Radio officials say they have documented details of ``Operation Lotus,'' in which they say Bofors transferred cash to secret Swiss bank accounts for the benefit of Indian officials and politicians close to Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

The allegations have caused a political storm in India, where sources say Mr. Gandhi's image of political integrity has been badly tarnished.

In Sweden, the accusations are a further embarrassment to sorely-pressed Bofors, which last month admitted to illegally exporting arms to blacklisted countries in the Middle East during the early 1980s.

India's Stockholm embassy has been in contact with officials of the Swedish Foreign Trade Ministry, which is responsible for weapons exports, and with senior Bofors management.

Indian Embassy officials said yesterday that Bofors managing director Per Ove Morberg had a 40-minute talk with Ambassador Shri Bhupatrai Oza Wednesday.

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