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Our Man Bildt (2)
A look into the affairs of Sweden's minister for foreign affairs. Part two.
DUCKPOND (Rixstep) — Sweden's foreign minister Carl Bildt seems to never be out of the news. Bildt's repeatedly denied talking with representatives of the US about Julian Assange. Bildt's been described in the US embassy cables released by WikiLeaks as 'a medium size dog who believes he's a big dog'.
This article series takes a look at the man and what he's been up to.
Stockholm's Grand Hôtel is one of the finest in the world. It's located on Blasieholmen across the water from the Royal Castle, next to the Bolinder Palace of the Royal Automobile Club (KAK on the roof) and the Burman palace of the Swedish employer's association.
But walk around back and you'll encounter a building no one pays any attention to with a facade competing with those of the banks for total blasé. The world headquarters of Lundin Oil, now Lundin Petroleum. But you have to know it's there to find it.
Lundin Oil (Lundin Petroleum) exploit petroleum and natural gas resources. They're initially owned by the Lundin family: Adolf, Adolf's son Ian, and Adolf's son Lukas. Adolf's brother Bertil also plays a part here.
You'll find precious little written about them at Wikipedia, no matter the language you choose. Oil billionaires know how to keep a low profile. They're almost as secretive as their uncle Bertil was. Bertil was head of Sweden's most secretive intelligence agency, the KSI.
Adolf was born in 1932. He was honorary chairman of Lundin Petroleum, chairman of Vostok Nafta, and board member of North Atlantic Natural Resources, Atacama Minerals, Champion Resources, South Atlantic Ventures, Tenke Mining, and Valkyries Petroleum.
You'll find a hard time finding anything on most of those corporations.
Adolf got his degree from the Royal Technical Institute in 1956. He made the news in 1984 when he broke the South Africa boycott to mine for gold in the country. His comment at the time: 'I don't understand the Swedish rage against this beautiful country'.
Adolf went in as chief investor in Tenke Mining in the Congo in 1996. The UN blacklisted Tenke for 'plundering the country of natural resources'. The UN even accused Sweden of being an accessory to Adolf's crimes.
When pressure was put on him to sell his concessions in Sudan, Adolf responded: 'There's so much oil in this country. This country works. Everybody can smell peace'.
Adolf had also been doing business with the dictatorship in Khartoum. Villages were burnt down and the inhabitants were forced out to make way for a road for Adolf.
And yet Adolf was named 'Swede of the Year in the World' by the king in 1998. And he sat in the first row with Ronnie Reagan for the concert for the latter's inauguration party.
As mentioned earlier, Bertil Lundin was head of the KSI, Sweden's most secretive intelligence agency. And within KSI Bertil was regarded as one of the most secretive individuals in the country.
KSI is Kontoret för särskild inhämtning, about as cute a name as can be. For it means mostly nothing: the office for special collection. But names change: KSI was previously known as SSI, the section for special collection, and before that was known simply as IB or the information bureau.
So what did Sweden's most secretive Smiley do at KSI? Probably pretty much what his predecessors did at the old IB - they tracked threats to the realm. They were particularly interested in sympathisers to the social democrats who leaned too far to the left. And what really made all this painful was the revelation they were doing it for the CIA.
The people at KSI today are more secretive than Bertie ever was: no one even knows their names anymore.
KSI sorts under MUST - Militära underrättelse- och säkerhetstjänsten. Sweden's Military Intelligence and Security Service. They're the counterpart to SÄPO - Sweden's more well known security police.
Assange 'accuser' Sofia Wilén would seem to have relatives working for MUST. One of them may have served in Afghanistan.
Carl & Adolf
Carl Bildt lost the national election to the social democrats in 1998 and resigned his position as leader of the conservatives. A year later he was Kofi Annan's special representative to the Balkans, and he continued in that role until 2001.
But by then he was on the board of directors of Lundin Oil.
The Lundins asked Carl Bildt to join their Lundin board of directors in 2000. Carl Bildt knew his way around. Perhaps more importantly: Lundin were under a lot of pressure for violating human rights, for being behind some of the worst atrocities ever, and so forth. Carl Bildt on the board of directors gave them a better image, whether that was the intention or not.
The Triumph of Silence
By systematically refusing to answer questions about abuses and dispossession in Sudan and Ethiopia the oil giant Lundin Petroleum and Sweden's minister for foreign affairs Carl Bildt have found a winning strategy, writes Kerstin Lundell, author of the award winning Business in Blood and Oil: Lundin Petroleum in Africa.
'Based on earlier experiences, we find it's not of a constructive nature to comment on unsubstantiated claims about Lundin Petroleum and the corporation's business.'
That's all the answer I've received for all the questions I've asked for the past four years about the company's knowledge of or involvement with all the events - the murders, the burning of entire villages - in Sudan and Ethiopia that I've encountered as I collected material for my book Business in Blood and Oil and for articles in Process Nordic magazine.
I contacted the company on a regular basis with the offer for them to comment on serious accusations or direct testimony. They've always declined. The quote above is their explanation why.
'Unsubstantiated claims'? I've spent a lot of time in those areas and I've spoken with a lot of people. I have UN reports.
Because so many things point to this corporation consciously or inadvertently being involved in serious abuses and crimes against humanity, I expected their representatives to try to get me to see that those claims were false.
I thought I'd hear that the villages in Sudan that had been bombed from the air had nothing to do with the need to clear the oil fields of a potentially hostile population. Dispossessing these villagers from the Ethiopian province Ogaden with attacks and brutal terror were not at all connected with Lundin Oil's attempts to establish a presence in the area.
But that's not the way it turned out. I was never granted an interview with a corporate representative.
I find their silence puzzling even today. The events I described have taken place. Lundin Petroleum were there. The corporation certainly profited from the contracts they drew up with regimes in the countries where these crimes took place. They must have known something. But no explanations. They don't have their own version of what happened. All they have is silence.
There is no question but that oil has exacerbated the conflicts which harmed the ordinary impoverished people who live in those areas: the forces fighting are fighting over control of oil revenues. The government who signed the contract with the oil corporation are trying to defend the corporation's interests, whilst the rebels attack them in the hope of stopping the government from profiting from the oil revenues.
Weapons are pointed at civilians in both Sudan and Ethiopia. Those affected belong to the same ethnic group as the rebels and the strategy of the government forces is to simply dispossess the local population. The military attacked civilians: camel herders, mothers, grandmothers - and children.
My research provided strong indications that corporate representatives outright cooperated with the military in the oil fields as the dispossession and murdering of the locals continued. When my book Business in Oil and Blood was published in February 2010 and the mainstream media took notice, other journalists tried to get Lundin Petroleum to make a statement. But the silence was uninterrupted. TV4 got a 'no' when they invited corporate representatives to their morning show. Radio programme P1 tried to get them to their 'Studio One' show. The television show 'Debate' tried to get them as well.
They finally broke their silence at Dagens Industri on 3 March. CEO Ian Lundin wrote the article himself. He wrote that I had deliberately used misleading information. So he was guessing at my motives. And he's also wrong about the facts I presented. His article is very cautious with words meticulously chosen, considering how controversial the topic is and how serious the accusations are.
Ian devoted a few lines to things he can really know something about: Lundin Petroleum. 'Our goal wherever we are in the world is to find oil and gas using the best and most efficient methods possible, but always in a responsible way from a social and environmental perspective'.
Yet more questions. For if that be their goal, then Lundin should be trying to explain all the UN documents where the corporation's activities, particularly in connection with the highway built in Sudan, are mentioned in the context of serious abuses? Or comment on the interviews I've conducted with the victims from those areas? Are those people smearing Lundin Petroleum as some sort of joke?
Against the backdrop of a mountain of incriminating material Ian Lundin offers a terse report which I deem to be unreliable. It's a terribly thin answer to the accusations. Some of the arguments in his article are reminiscent of another representative of the company - Carl Bildt. Both of them refer to the company's contributions to peace and development. The caveat is that oil doesn't contribute to development in Africa according to many researchers. So oil is hardly the end that could forgive all the means. And now the questions are about the means: what part do the Lundins play in those conflicts? How much have they known about where their money disappears to, what their rigs and safety policies have cost in terms of armed conflicts and abuses?
Carl Bildt sticks to the corporate line: silence. He still refuses to answer questions about his time with Lundin. He was on the board of directors right before the right wing won the national election in Sweden in 2006. He switched horses and became minister for foreign affairs. And he consequently refuses to answer questions whether his involvement with Lundin Petroleum influences Swedish diplomacy. Time and again my attempts have failed to get an answer from our duly elected minister. To get him to answer at least one question, I finally asked straight out if he'd been involved in crimes against humanity when he worked for the company. I could hear the heavy breathing of his press secretary on the phone connection. She promised she'd ask the minister again. (The answer was 'no'.)
So I sat alone in the sofas at the television stations, at the radio stations. With no one offering an opposing view I put forth my accusations. So you might believe I won by walkover. But I didn't. It's Lundin Petroleum and Carl Bildt who triumph by silence. Despite Carl Bildt being without a doubt several orders of magnitude better than me at debating, he wins by saying nothing at all.
Johan Brånstad, formerly editor of state television's Dokument inifrån, suggests the silence can be a tactic.
'As soon as you're dealing with a corporation, they have advisers who decide if it's better to make a statement or not. The criticism of the media in recent years has limited journalists and increased the power of the advisers', says Johan Brånstad. One sees that my criticism has not had any practical results. Their strategy has been a success: the share price of Lundin Petroleum has been stable this spring on the Stockholm stock exchange.
Nor is there any sign Carl Bildt need worry about the criticism. We saw this when social democrat Ameer Sachet posed a question to the prime minister in the parliament about Carl Bildt and the information in my book. Does the prime minister have confidence in Carl Bildt? The prime minister delegated the answer to minister for finance Ewa Björling who laconically quipped: 'affirmative'. But I didn't want to give up. Should Carl Bildt have been involved in or known about the abuses and is now keeping quiet, then those who possibly know about his little secret have a chance to influence him. Carl Bildt's involvement with Lundin Petroleum can affect Swedish diplomacy. The suspicion is sufficiently sound so as to deserve an answer.
Omar al Bashir can know something about what Carl Bildt knows. Omar al Bashir has been summoned to the international court in the Hague to answer questions about crimes against humanity. (He's refused the summons.) Omar al Bashir has also had strong connections to al-Qaeda.
'I met Omar al Bashir a few times. Once when he traveled to southern Sudan to open an oil field. And I've met him in Khartoum with Carl Bildt', Ian Lundin told reporter Gustaf Trapper for Dagens Industri 1 March 2006.
A half year after that and Carl Bildt was Sweden's minister for foreign affairs. What were those three men talking about at that meeting? Did they mention anything about the abuses? The oil business in Sudan was very bloody only a few years earlier, particularly in the Lundin oil fields, according to unanimous reports from a great many human rights organisations and the UN. Only those who were involved have the answers.
Carl Bildt claims he's even spoken with other parties in the bloody civil war. Carl Bildt says they were talking about peace. But a reliable source (that insists on anonymity) claims that's not at all the case. Those talks were about the opportunity for Lundin Petroleum to continue with business as usual even after the peace treaty was signed. Those who took part in the peace talks can also have something to tell us, something that's of a sensitive nature and concerns our minister for foreign affairs as well as the rebel movement SPLA, today the political movement SPLM that controls southern Sudan.
And of course Ian Lundin and others at Lundin Petroleum can know things that would damage the minister if they ever got out. So there can be vested interests pressuring him, interests that can be affected by decisions Carl Bildt makes as minister for foreign affairs.
Can Carl Bildt be a security risk? Far fetched perhaps. But that's what he'd become if the wrong people blackmail him.
I'm cut off the first time I ring the security police. But the next time I reach press secretary Mattias Lindholm. And he takes my questions seriously. But he can't give me any detailed replies.
'We don't comment on individual cases or what cases we're working on. It's very important this is clear', he says over and over again.
If a minister is threatened or extorted then it's a serious matter and a matter for the security police.
'Of course it's critical for our democracy and the processes we have in our parliamentary society', Mattias Lindholm admits. 'Those questions should be relevant for the cabinet office and their security agency'. he says.
So I ring up the cabinet office. And my first contact promises my questions will be answered. So the first day is at an end. And then the second day. And then I find I can't stand waiting any longer. All around is silence.
Kerstin Lundell was honoured with Sweden's most prestigious award for investigative journalism in March 2010: the 'Golden Spade'. This for her book 'Business in Blood and Oil: Lundin Petroleum in Africa'.
I don't have blood in my veins - I have oil in them.
- Adolf Lundin
We're not political. We can't interfere with domestic affairs.
- Ian Lundin
You are enhancing the conflict by engaging in oil investments.
- Gerhart Baum, Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Sudan to the UN
I'm always watching over my shoulder. To see if someone's following me. Someone might be out to do me harm for what I wrote in my book. I don't know if that's the case, I haven't received any tangible threats. But you can't be too careful.
- Kerstin Lundell
One: Introduction | Two: Lundin Oil | Three: Block 5A | Four: Persson & Schibbye | Five: Media Outcry | Six: Questions | Seven: Bibliography
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