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France's Hollande called as witness in Brazil jet probe: aide

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Paris (AFP)

France's former president Francois Hollande testified as a witness at the request of a Brazilian judge in a corruption probe involving a $4.5 billion tender for fighter jets, an aide said on Wednesday.

Prosecutors are looking into how the Brazilian government wrapped up more than a decade of negotiations in December 2013 for 36 Gripen fighter jets from Sweden at the expense of France's Rafale and Boeing's Super Hornet.

The case is part of an ongoing investigation into former Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva on suspicion of money laundering and influence peddling.

Hollande, president from 2012-2017, met with investigators at his Paris office on July 4, an aide said, confirming information first published in the satirical weekly newspaper Le Canard Enchaine.

Nicolas Sarkozy, who served as president before Hollande, was also asked to testify in the same case but refused, the paper said.

Contacted by AFP, the financial prosecutor's office refused to comment.

Prosecutors suspect Lula, who had stepped down as president at the end of 2010, received money to use his influence with then-president Dilma Rousseff to help the Swedish firm win the tender.

The $4.5-billion (four-billion-euro) contract was signed in October 2014.

In June 2018, Sweden's Prime Minister Stefan Lofven testified at a Stockholm court in connection with the same case in a summons also requested by a Brazilian judge.

Both the chairman and the CEO of Swedish aircraft manufacturer Saab, which makes the Gripen jet, were also questioned in court.

Lula, now 73, was jailed in April 2018 and is serving a 12-year sentence for taking an apartment as a bribe, a case he describes as politically motivated.

The former president has been named in six other cases. He has protested his innocence.

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