Uppsala student charged over Czech ‘poison plot’

A 27-year-old PhD student has been charged with stealing poisonous substances from Uppsala University as part of an alleged plot to blackmail the Czech Republic into paying large sums of money in bitcoin.

Uppsala student charged over Czech 'poison plot'
Uppsala University. Photo: David Naylor/Uppsala universitet

The man is accused of posting a letter containing the poison to the interior ministry in the Czech state. On the same day the minister received an e-mail threatening to spread the poison by air and water in shopping centres if the state did not pay 5,000 bitcoins (14 million kronor; $1.7m).

“The poison was sent by registered mail and we were able to trace that it had been posted at Willys [a Swedish supermarket] in Gottsunda in Uppsala,” said prosecutor Henrik Söderman.

No money, neither cash nor electronic, was paid out. Instead a PhD student at Uppsala University was remanded in custody earlier this summer on suspicion of stealing syringes and poison from the university on 12 occasions. According to the prosecutor he then sold it online.

The 27-year-old was charged on Friday with theft and for assisting attempted aggravated extortion. Investigators have not been able to directly link the man to the e-mailed threat and Czech police have not arrested any potential companions.

Police arrested the suspect after setting up hidden cameras at the university, catching the student on video packing the poison deliveries and printing address tags, said the prosecutor.

One of the poisonous substances he is believed to have handled as part of the case is ricin. He has therefore also been charged with violation of Sweden's Military Equipment Act, which ricin falls under.

The man has also been investigated on suspicion of blackmailing Slovakia, Söderman told the TT news agency.

“In November 2014 a similar letter is said to have been posted to the Slovak state. It's the same approach, but we have been told that the poison letter sent to Slovakia no longer exists so we haven't pursued that line,” he said.