Sweden set up front company to secretly export arms to Saudi Arabia
March 29, 2012 1 Comment
By JOSEPH FITSANAKIS| intelNews.org |
Long considered as one of the world’s most socially responsible nations, Sweden has stringent laws prohibiting the export of Swedish weapons to countries that fall short of elementary democratic standards. Which is why the Swedish electorate was shocked by news earlier this month that the Swedish government set up a front company to secretly export weapons to one of the world’s most repressive and brutal regimes: Saudi Arabia. According to Sveriges Radio, Sweden’s publicly funded national broadcaster, which first aired the story, the shell company, which is named SSTI, was founded in 2009. It was registered in Saudi Arabia by former employees of Sweden’s Defense Research Agency. Known simply as FOI, the Agency operates as the defense research arm of the Swedish government, and reports directly to Sweden’s Ministry of Defense. The Stockholm based broadcaster said that the former FOI employees were specifically selected by the Swedish government in order to prevent the appearance of links between the front company, SSTI, and the Swedish state. The deal with the Saudi government was to build a weapons factory in the oil-rich kingdom, which would covertly manufacture Swedish weapons for direct sale to the Saudi Arabian Armed Forces. The deal turned complex, however, and was almost derailed, by the requirement to use cash funds in order to set up SSTI. It was at that point, Sveriges Radio says, that the FOI turned to Swedish military intelligence for assistance. According to anonymous sources, FOI officials “borrowed cash” from Sweden’s Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST), which was eventually transported in suitcases to Saudi Arabia “on several occasions”, in order to help set up the front company. MUST, a division of the Swedish Armed Forces Central Command, which employs both military and civilian staff, asked no questions. Instead, it used taxpayers’ money to facilitate FOI’s request. This, says Sveriges Radio, allowed FOI to avoid leaving a paper trail linking SSTI to the Swedish government. Allegedly, FOI later repaid the money to MUST, which never knew the purpose of the original cash loan. The country’s national broadcaster spoke to Erik Lagersten, Press Secretary for the Swedish Armed Forces, who said that there is an “ongoing [government] inquiry” to determine “whether FOI have used the funds in an incorrect manner”. He added, however, that he could not comment further on the case, “because this is confidential”.