STOCKHOLM — The head of Swedish defense group Saab said May 25 that his cellphone was bugged repeatedly during negotiations with Switzerland over Saab’s sale of 22 Gripen fighter jets.
“I am closely watched and I know that my cellphone has been bugged on several occasions. Text messages have also been sent from my cellphone, in both Swedish and English, on various occasions and to various contacts,” Saab chief executive Haakan Buskhe told Sweden’s Svenska Dagbladet in an interview.
He suggested he was a target of industrial espionage but did not identify by name the people or companies which may have been behind the action.
“You’re monitored, one way or another,” he said, adding: “Sure, I’ve been surprised when I see how our competitors work.”
Switzerland’s Federal Council announced in November its decision to purchase 22 Gripen for an estimated 3.1 billion francs ($3.27 billion, 2.6 billion euros), reportedly the cheapest of three offers.
Dassault’s Rafale and the Eurofighter, produced by the European EADS consortium, were the other bidders.
No contract has been signed, and in February Dassault reportedly made a counteroffer undercutting the Swedish deal, prompting Saab to review its price.
Since then, several Swiss media outlets have revealed classified documents questioning the technical capabilities of the Gripen.
The Swiss defense ministry has repeatedly stood by its choice of Gripen, but in April the federal government delayed the purchase until 2020.
A Swiss parliamentary commission is currently examining whether the government’s selection process was conducted properly, and a referendum on the purchase is expected.
Buskhe said he was “not concerned” about those outcomes.
“I know Switzerland has the ability to evaluate the various alternatives ... I don’t think it would be right for Saab to launch a political campaign in another country,” he said.
Gripen is already in service with the Swedish, Czech, Hungarian, South African and Thai air forces, and negotiations are underway in Brazil, Denmark and India.