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    Oslo Outraged After Texas Billionaire Buys Up Norwegian Fighters Dirt Cheap

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    Both the Norwegian Armed Forces and the country's Defense Ministry have come under heavy fire for their handling of the controversial sale of fighter aircraft to eccentric Texas billionaire Ross Perot Jr. Both authorities were slammed for inadequate control in the new report by the Office of the Auditor General (OAG).

    In 2015, the US company Northern General Leasing LCC (NGL), owned by Ross Perot Jr., was allowed to buy two Norwegian F-5 fighters dirt cheap, for 116,000 NOK ($13,500) apiece, which is well below the market price. Furthermore, the Norwegian authorities have no evidence of how the former Norwegian fighter aircraft are being used, the Norwegian daily Aftenposten reported.

    "Both the Armed Forces and the Ministry of Defense had inadequate internal control over the process of selling F-5 fighters, which ran from 1999 to 2015," Auditor General Per-Kristian Foss said in a statement, citing the authorities' "weak documentation" and "insufficient understanding of the rules of the export of military equipment."

    So far, there has been great uncertainty about how the billionaire came to acquire the aircraft for such a price, since the first bid, by the Armed Forces, was 6.6 million NOK per aircraft ($770,000). The sale of the aircraft was handled by the Armed Forces Logistics Organization (FLO), which previously encountered trouble for selling naval vessels to Nigeria and all-terrain carriers that ended up in Sudan, which raised suspicions of gross corruption, the Norwegian daily Dagbladet pointed out.

    "The FLO had no routines and systems that ensured that important documentation was filed and stated no reason for the decisions taken," Per-Kristian Foss pointed out. "The internal control of the Armed Forces was too bad, and the Defense Ministry failed to comply with its overall responsibilities," he added.

    The OAG specifically highlighted attempts to sell the F-5 aircraft to Greece in 2003. According to the OAG, the sale was to be carried out through the state-owned Israeli company Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), which was a violation of national guidelines.

    "The defense had not checked ownership before it signed a binding agreement with an assumed Greek company," Per-Kristian Foss pointed out, citing lack of transparency and traceability.

    In her response to the OAG, Defense Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide, acknowledged that she did not contest the OAG's findings. She nevertheless argued that the report failed to draw and adequate picture of the Armed Forces' practice of disposing of materiel. She also defended the sale of aircraft below the market price. According to Søreide, Norway has been trying to rid itself of the planes for 15 years, and the only realistic alternative was the destruction of the aircraft, which cost the state coffers millions of kroner.

    For many years, Norway had tried to get rid of 15 retired F-5 fighters, also known as Freedom Fighters. According to the OAG's report, twelve of them were donated to schools and museums, and one is being used for training.

    Henry Ross Perot Jr. is a real estate developer and American businessman. He is best known as the elder son of American billionaire and former US presidential candidate Ross Perot, as well as for having circumnavigated the world in a helicopter at the age of 23.

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    armed forces, aircraft, Ine Eriksen Søreide, Scandinavia, United States, Norway
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