Top official ‘tried to destroy tsunami emails’

A leading civil servant tried to have security tapes containing e-mails relating to the tsunami catastrophe destroyed, according to Svenska Dagbladet. But Bengt Nordqvist's wish was not granted and the Catastrophe Commission is now ready to wade through masses of new information.

Bengt Nordqvist was a leading lawyer at government offices under Göran Persson’s tenure as prime minister. He was also the man who gave the order to remove a list of telephone calls at the time of the catastrophe, as revealed by Svenska Dagbladet earlier this month.

The telephone list was erased on July 1, 2005, before the actions, or lack thereof, of Persson’s right hand man Lars Danielsson had hit the headlines. It was Nordqvist who gave the verbal order for the details from 4,500 government telephones to be removed. This was duly carried out.

But Nordqvist was powerless to hinder the preservation of security copies of the government’s e-mail traffic. Gunnar Holmgren, then head of administration at government offices, ensured that copies were made and stored in a safe place. The tapes were placed in a safe that could only be accessed via a combination lock.

Five times last winter the parliamentary committee on the constitution requested information about the government’s e-mail and telephone exchanges at the time of the crisis. On each occasion they were informed by the head of the legal division at the prime minister’s office, Christina Weihe, that no such information was available.

Had it not been for the vigilance of civil servants from the government’s IT department, there would nothing erroneous about Weihe’s refutation. Nordqvist made it verbally known that he there was no reason to preserve the e-mails. But lower level civil servants refused to carry out such an order without a written directive.

Twice this month Bengt Nordqvist has claimed that there were no security copies of the government’s e-mail traffic in existence. But when Svenska Dagbladet informed Nordqvist that the tapes did indeed exist and were stored in a basement safe, the lawyer finally changed his tune.

“How interesting,” he said.

The tapes were found a few hours later. Christina Weihe and head of administration Jan Landahl handed them over to Fredrik Reinfeldt, claiming no prior knowledge of the tapes’ existence.

The catastrophe commission, led by Johan Hirschdfeldt, will now reconvene to analyse the new data.