Last week Swedish Nils Bildt, 41, appeared on American Fox News. He was presented as ”Swedish defence and national security advisor”. But the Swedish armed forces, the Swedish foreign ministry and Swedish defence experts were not familiar with him. Since then the story of the false security advisor has been spread over the world.
Towards the end of 2015, Nils Bildt was residing in Japan and running the company CTSS Japan, which declared that it worked with security issues. Abduction situations were one of the areas the company declared as its speciality. During this period Nils Bildt contacted the Japanese government to negotiate the release of the abducted Japanese journalist Jumpei Yasuda. He was abducted in Syria in June of that year.
However neither Jumpei Yasuda's family nor the government were interested in an intermediator.
”But when the Japanese government ignored his initiative, Nils Bildt in the end also contacted Yasuda's wife. She also refused to be represented by Bildt, since she couldnt pay the kind of money that he wanted,” says Ryoji Fujiwara, freelance journalist at the bureau The Japan Press and a friend of Yasuda's.
Even though no one stood behind his attempts to negotiate, in January 2016 Nils Bildt contacted the representative of the abductors, according to Ryoji Fujiwara. Bildt then stated that he represented both the family and the government. Nils Bildt could then take a photograph of a message from the abducted journalist as evidence that he was still alive.
”During that time Nils continued to send e-mails to the Japanese foreign ministry and Yasuda's wife. He wrote that Yasuda would be killed and that he would be sold to IS. But that wasn't true,” says Ryoji Fujiwara.
When another Japanese journalist, Kenji Goto, was executed by IS in January 2015 Nils Bildt commented on the incident in Japanese TV:
”I cannot say the Japanese government could have rescued him, but there were cases when IS freed abductees after negotiating and getting paid a ransom. If a negotiation went well and there was a 20-30 % possibility that IS might free him, that's still quite a high percentage,” Bildt said on television.
At this point Nils Bildt also contacted the organisation Reporters without Borders' office in Asia. He was very assertive and wanted the organisation to release information about the abduction, according to DN's sources.
The plan was to put pressure on the Japanese government. The local director let himself be persuaded and sent out a press release about the hostage situation. But after just a few days Reporters without Borders was forced to retract the information. In a message the organisation explained that the information had not been confirmed.
Director-general Cristophe Deloir issued a public apology:
”On behalf of Reporters without Borders I want to extend my deepest apologies to Jumpei Yasuda's family, friends and colleagues and to Japanese media and public,” he wrote in a message.
Several of Jumpei Yasuda's friends and colleagues contacted Nils Bildt:
”My friend wrote to him that he should stop lying about Yasuda. After that his phone was turned off. My colleague and I told Japanese newspapers and magazines about this. Then he disappeared from Japan,” says Ryoji Fujiwara.
The attempts to free Jumpei Yasuda have continued without the involvement of Nils Bildt. In May 2016 Japanese newspapers showed a picture of what was thought to be Yasuda. In his hands he held a sign saying ”Please help. This is the last chance.” As far as is known he is still in Syria.
Among his credentials Nils Bildt writes on one of his numerous now closed websites that he is a member of an organisation for ex-intelligence officers, AFIO. He also emphasizes his memberships in The Foreign Policy Association and World Affairs Council. All three organisations are in fact open for anyone to join.
”You can join if you want,” a contact person for AFIO says when DN calls.
According to the Swedish Defence Recruitment Agency, Nils Bildt has not done National Service in Sweden.
On April 1, 2003, Nils Gustav Tolling changed his name to Nils Bildt. The name change was approved by the Swedish Patent and Registration Office and recorded in the national registration. Despite the name change he has continued to use his previous name in several contexts. His American companies North East Training Center, FFOs&F and Corporate and Transportation Security Solutions are all registered under Nils Tolling. However the Japanese company CTSS Japan, which was founded in 2011, is registered under Nils Bildt. That company is now closed.
Up until his appearance on Fox News, Nils Bildt claimed that he was the founder of the company Modus World LLC., registered at an address in Washington. But during last weekend the company's website disappeared.
The company was registered in March 2016 by a corporate consultant. It is not apparent who is behind the company.
”My assignment was to handle the registration of the company, I cannot say anything about who is behind it,” says corporate consultant Joel C Weingarten.
On the company's website several acknowledged names were listed as partners. Security advisor Charles ”Don” McFetridge was one of them.
”Thats news to me. I met Nils Bildt in Washington a couple of years ago through mutual acquaintances. We had a few beers. He was very charming and agreeable. We did talk about potential future collaborations, but as I said I had no idea about the fact that I was listed as partner in his company,” he says.
Neither does security advisor Enders Wimbush, who is also listed as involved in the company, know that he has become involved in Modus World.
”I am not now, nor have I ever been, a member of the board of Modus World. This I discovered only in the last few days. This was done without my agreement or permission. I have had no business dealings whatsoever at any time with Modus World,” he writes in an e-mail to DN.
Nils Bildt has previously stated to DN that he was not responsible for choosing his title when he appeared on Fox News. A statement he repeated when answering questions on Swedish Radio during Monday afternoon.
”I was not aware of what title they would be using, I hadn't even said anything about Swedish, I had said international consultant and security advisor,” Bildt said to Swedish Radio.
On Monday evening Nils Bildt gave a written reply to DN. He admits to knowing about the abducted Japanese journalist and having been in contact with Japanese authorities with regards to the incident. But he declines further comments due to security reasons:
”I can only say that I'm not personally engaged in any negotiations concerning the aforementioned person.”
Many of the people listed as partners on the website of Bildt's company Modus World deny having any association with the company. Nils Bildt addresses this in the following fashion:
”Everyone listed on the team webpage was associated with the firm (Modus) in one way or another. What you're saying thus sounds a bit odd, especially considering all the communication, contracts etc. that exist.”
During Monday night Nils Bildt sent another e-mail to DN with further answers about his involvement in the negotiations. He confirms some of the information, but objects to DN’s account of the course of events.
”I have not claimed that I directly represented the family on this matter, even if I was asked to obtain and forward all information possible. I will note however, that a person I know was contacted by the kidnappers when they failed to get the attention of the Japanese government. Unfortunately, Japan is ill equipped to help its citizens abroad and they have little knowledge of matters such as this. It was then requested by the Japanese that I forward any information I had come across. I did so, without requesting any payment.”
He writes that he never personally had any contact with the abductors or their representatives. He also says that, as far as he remembers, Reporters without Borders contacted him in December 2015 – and not the opposite.
About his contacts with Japanese authorities he writes that ”a report was compiled and given to the relevant Japanese authorities. My contact was also given evidence of Mr. Yasuda being alive and in the captivity of the kidnappers, on several occasions over an extended period of time. This was forwarded to the relevant authorities”.
Nils Bildt confirms the meeting with Yasuda’s wife, which according to him happened in the company of his attorney and a specialist.
”The family was not in a position to privately finance any efforts to gain the freedom of Mr. Yasuda, so my recommendation to them was, from the very beginning, to contact and work with the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.”
Translation into English: Evelyn Jones