Graham Warwick/ATLANTA

RAYTHEON'S $1.4 BILLION contract for the SIVAM Amazon surveillance system is being jeopardised by an influence-peddling scandal, which has forced the resignations of Brazil's aeronautics minister and a presidential aide.

The companies interim contract has been renewed by the Brazilian Government while a Senate committee investigates the allegations.

The scandal follows publication of alleged excerpts from a wire tapped telephone conversation between the aide and Jose Afonso Assumpcao, president of Lider Aero Taxi, Raytheon's local independent sales representative.

Discussing Brazilian senator Gilberto Miranda's opposition to the SIVAM contract, the aide asks Assumpcao: "Have you already paid this guy?" Assumpcao does not respond. Aeronautics minister Mauro Gandra resigned after the transcripts revealed he had been a guest of Assumpcao.

"There is simply no evidence in the leaked transcripts of payment of any bribe," says the US company, adding that "no such payments have been made by Raytheon, in connection with the SIVAM programme".

The company was selected as SIVAM prime contractor in July 1994, defeating Thomson-CSF. External financing for the programme was approved in December 1994, but, in February 1995, the Government-appointed integrator, ESCA, was dropped because of tax irregularities. A contract was finally signed in May, but the revised financing package reflecting ECSA's removal still awaits Senate approval.

Miranda, who chairs the Senate Economic Affairs Committee, is leading calls for the SIVAM contract to be re-bid. He claims that Raytheon's system is overpriced and outdated, and that he plans to submit three new proposals which are "...much cheaper and use much more modern technology". He was shown the technology on recent visits to the USA, Russia and Ukraine. Although Raytheon's interim contract has been renewed by the Brazilian air force, work cannot proceed until the Senate has approved the foreign loans which will finance much of the SIVAM programme.

Brazilian President Fernando Henrique Cardoso has expressed his support for Raytheon's SIVAM bid, which the US company says was selected because it offered "the best technology, price and financing package".

The SIVAM system is designed to protect the Amazon from illegal mining, logging and drug smuggling, and to improve control of Brazilian airspace, using ground, airborne and space-based sensors. A number of Hawker 800s are part of the plan. The Brazilian air force also intends to buy 100 armed Embraer EMB-312H Super Tucanos as the enforcement arm of the system.

Source: Flight International