Swedish officer with fake diploma worked at Nato's military HQ
Dagens Nyheter has revealed that a Swedish officer using a fake background and false merits has avoided detection for almost 20 years. The man has had leading roles on Swedish international missions and has worked with the army’s intelligence and security service. He has also been a contact person for the Russian security service FSB and has worked at NATO’s military headquarters SHAPE.
On Thursday the Swedish Minister for Defence, Peter Hultqvist, and the Swedish Supreme Commander will be questioned by the parliamentary Committee on Defence.
In several articles Dagens Nyheter has exposed a false officer with a long career in the Swedish armed forces. The man has avoided detection until now, and has been able to work within the Armed Forces although his merits are false. He has been given more and more authority and has had access to classified information – without having gone through the Swedish Army Forces’ officer training programme.
By reviewing old qualifications, Dagens Nyheter has been able to show that the man was forced out of the programme 20 years ago, after lying about his school grades.
Lieutenant Colonel Morgan Gustafsson who was supervisor for younger officers in 1999, confirms Dagens Nyheter’s information.
– He wasn’t honest, so he didn’t finish the military education. It’s as simple as that. When we screened him we realized that he was not suitable for the Armed Forces, Morgan Gustafsson says.
The Swedish Armed Forces – Försvarsmakten – have started their own investigation and they confirm the information:
– I find it regrettable that this has happened. This should not have been possible, says Lieutenant Colonel Carl-Axel Blomdahl, who is leading the investigation at the Armed Forces' headquarters.
The fake officer was able to pursue a career within the Armed Forces. It seems like he did this by simply stating that he had the qualifications and education needed for different positions. No-one seems to have questioned or checked the information he gave. The man has worked as an officer for the Swedish international missions – as captain in Kosovo and as major in Afghanistan. He was an employee at the intelligence and security service, Must, between 2007 to 2010 and in 2013. There he worked with Sweden’s secret encryption keys.
In 2012 he was temporarily promoted to Lieutenant Colonel and was sent to NATO’s military headquarters SHAPE in Mons, Belgium. There he worked with the classified system - Afghanistan Mission Network (AMN). Sweden is not a member of NATO but has a close cooperation with the organisation and was the first non-NATO-country that was granted access to the AMN-system. The man's employment at Must was supposed to continue until 2015, but was terminated in 2013 at his own request, due to personal reasons.
NATO was not informed about the man’s background by the Swedish Armed Forces until after DN’s articles were published, on January 13. Before that DN had asked questions about the man’s dealings at SHAPE.
”These are serious allegations. We are aware that the Swedish Armed Forces are currently investigating this matter. NATO and Sweden are close partners and we remain in contact with the Swedish authorities as they establish the facts. Staff on temporary NATO assignments are selected and sent by the home nation, which is also responsible for security clearances. Because this matter is currently under investigation by the Swedish Armed Forces it would be inappropriate for us to comment further”, NATO/SHAPE wrote in a comment to DN.
Before DN’s articles neither the Swedish government, Armed Forces or any other authorities knew that the man's career within the army was based on a lie. But there were warning signs.
Between the years of 2016 and 2018 he worked at the Swedish Coastguard as a commander. He held a high position with operational responsibility. In this position he was also the Swedish contact person for the Russian security service FSB, and he had several meetings with representatives for FSB’s Coastguard - both in Russia and Sweden.
When the man applied for a different position at a civil authority in 2018 ,they discovered that the information he had given about his academic merits and his driver’s license were not correct. The Swedish Coastguard was warned and the man was forced to leave his job. According to the Coastguard, they informed both the Swedish Security Service, the Armed Forces and the Ministry for Justice about the fact that the man was not to be trusted and was not fit to hold a classified position. At that time no-one knew that the man’s military qualifications had been falsified as well.
Despite the warnings the man was handpicked by the Swedish Armed Forces to become Swedish Chief of Staff for the ongoing UN mission in Mali in the summer of 2019.
Both Morgan Johansson, Minister for Justice, and one of his state secretaries at the Ministry for Justice received the warning from the Coastguard.
The ministry forwarded the warning to the Ministry for Defence. Despite this, the Ministry for Defence did not contact the Swedish Armed Forces. They relied on the Coastguard informing the Armed Forces.
The Swedish Armed Forces have stated that they did not get any warnings from the Coastguard. On Tuesday, January 14, Supreme Commander Micael Bydén reported that the Armed Forces had found a security report about the man, dating back to January 2019. The report was based on the information from the Coastguard.
– This is definitely serious. This should not be possible and we have to examine this process. I just informed the Ministry for Defence about which actions we will be taking, Micael Bydén told DN.
The man has now been forced to leave the position of Chief of Staff, and he was never sent to Mali. He is now on paid leave.
DN's articles about the man, and the way the authorities have handled the situation, have resulted in criticism against the Swedish Armed Forces and the government. Several experts say that the man has been a security threat for Sweden.
The leader of the opposition, Ulf Kristersson, party leader for Moderaterna, has demanded an answer from Sweden's prime minister, Social democrat Stefan Löfven, on how the government has handled information about the man. On Thursday, January 24, both Minister for Defence Peter Hultqvist and Supreme Commander Micael Bydén will be questioned by the Committee for Defence.
– The government will have to say exactly what they knew, exactly when they knew and exactly what happened. Only the Ministry for Justice and the Ministry for Defence can give those answers. Stefan Löfven needs to make sure that this information is revealed so that we know what actually happened, Ulf Kristersson has told DN.
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