Sweden’s first spy trial in 18 years gets under way

Sweden's first espionage trial in 18 years got under way on Thursday, with a Swedish tech consultant accused of selling sensitive information about truckmaker Scania and Volvo Cars to Russia.

Sweden's first spy trial in 18 years gets under way
File photo of a Volvo Cars factory. Photo: Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT

The 47-year-old man is accused of espionage and illegal intelligence gathering that put Sweden’s national security at risk, prosecutors said.

The accused was arrested in dramatic fashion in February 2019 while dining at a restaurant in central Stockholm with a Russian diplomat suspected of being an intelligence officer.

The diplomat was briefly detained but released on account of his diplomatic immunity.

The arrest led to a diplomatic row between Sweden and Russia, with Stockholm subsequently denying visas to two Russian envoys. Moscow responded by expelling two Swedish diplomats.

At the time of his arrest, the consultant had just received 27,800 kronor ($3,355) for passing information to Moscow, prosecutor Mats Ljungqvist said in February.

The information regarded “manufacturing, such as source codes and construction of products in the automotive sector”.

According to the indictment, the man illegally transferred material from his work computer to his private computer and thereafter to USB memory sticks.

In order to hide his activities from being logged by the IT system, he also photographed material from the screen of his work computer.

The man denies the allegations.

The trial is expected to conclude on September 1st, and the accused risks a maximum of six years in prison if convicted.

In its latest annual report published in 2020, Sweden’s intelligence agency said Russia, along with China, posed the biggest intelligence threat to the Scandinavian country.

According to public broadcaster SVT, this is the first time a person has gone on trial in Sweden for espionage in 18 years.

The trial continues.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.


Russian ‘spy whale’ turns up in Swedish waters

An organisation tracking a Beluga whale that's been accused of being a spy trained by the Russian navy, said he had appeared off Sweden's coast.

Russian 'spy whale' turns up in Swedish waters

First discovered in Norway’s far northern region of Finnmark in 2019, the whale spent more than three years slowly moving down the top half of the Norwegian coastline, before suddenly speeding up in recent months to cover the second half and on to Sweden.

On Sunday, he was observed in Hunnebostrand, off Sweden’s southwestern coast.

“We don’t know why he has sped up so fast right now,” especially since he is moving “very quickly away from his natural environment”, Sebastian Strand, a marine biologist with the OneWhale organisation, told AFP.

“It could be hormones driving him to find a mate. Or it could be loneliness as Belugas are a very social species – it could be that he’s searching for other Beluga whales.”

Believed to be 13-14 years old, Strand said the whale is “at an age where his hormones are very high”.

The closest population of Belugas is however located in the Svalbard archipelago, in Norway’s far north.

The whale is not believed to have seen a single Beluga since arriving in Norway in April 2019.

Norwegians nicknamed it “Hvaldimir” – a pun on the word “whale” in Norwegian, hval, and a nod to its alleged association to Russia.

When he first appeared in Norway’s Arctic, marine biologists from the Norwegian Directorate of Fisheries removed an attached man-made harness. The harness had a mount suited for an action camera and the words “Equipment St. Petersburg” printed on the plastic clasps.

Directorate officials said Hvaldimir may have escaped an enclosure, and may have been trained by the Russian navy as it appeared to be accustomed to humans.

Moscow never issued any official reaction to Norwegian speculation he could be a “Russian spy”.

The Barents Sea is a strategic geopolitical area where Western and Russian submarine movements are monitored.

It is also the gateway to the Northern Route that shortens maritime journeys between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

Strand said the whale’s health “seemed to be very good” in recent years, foraging wild fish under Norway’s salmon farms.

But his organisation was concerned about Hvaldimir’s ability to find food in Sweden, and already observed some weight loss.

Beluga whales, which can reach a size of six metres and live to between 40 and 60 years of age, generally inhabit the icy waters around Greenland, northern Norway and Russia.