Tsunami tapes expose Danielsson contradictions

New facts have emerged surrounding the previous government's handling of the tsunami catastrophe. According to newspaper Svenska Dagbladet, the new information contradicts statements made to the parliament's Constitutional Committee by Göran Persson's aide at the time, Lars Danielsson.

The previously unseen data were stored on tapes found in a drawer in the cellar of government offices in Rosenbad in October 2006 after a journalist, acting on a tip-off, claimed that back-up copies of e-mails had been made.

Having looked at the tapes, Johan Hirschfeldt, chairman of the government’s Catastrophe Commission, has recovered data indicating that Danielsson’s version of his involvement in the events of 26th December 2004 was incorrect. Hirschfeldt would not however specify which facts were contradictory.

According to the newspaper, Hirschfeldt has asked the government to recall the Catastrophe Commission, the body responsible for investigating the actions of government offices at the time of the South Asian tsunami disaster, in which 542 Swedes lost their lives.

“I am not going to comment on that,” said Hirschfeldt.

A senior civil servant, Bengt Nordqvist, had previously tried to have the back-up tapes destroyed.

But Gunnar Holmgren, then head of administration at government offices, ensured that copies were made. The tapes were placed in a safe that could only be accessed via a combination lock.

Former Chancellor of Justice Nils-Olof Berggren accused Danielsson of obstructing the official investigation into the government’s handling of the crisis.

Danielsson refused to respond to questions from the Catastrophe Commission’s chairman. Hirschfeldt had asked him repeatedly why his evidence contradicted that of Hans Dahlgren, cabinet secretary at the foreign ministry.

Dahlgren had said that he had spoken to Danielsson several times on 26th December 2004, something that Danielsson said he did not recall.

Berggren said in his August 2006 report that it was “particularly remarkable” that Danielsson had not answered the commission’s questions on why his version of events was different to that of Dahlgren. Hirschfeldt had visited him several times to try to get his version of events, but Danielsson still refused to answer.

“He must then, if not before, have realised that the commission considered the information to be important for its work.”

Danielsson was “clearly obliged to give the information that the commission requested,” Berggren said in his report.

Berggren added that he had interviewed Danielsson for the report, and had been “forced to conclude that the explanations given by Lars Danielsson about the telephone calls are not convincing, particularly given the background of his clear unwillingness or inability to give an explanation.”

The ombudsman said that he could not rule that Danielsson had deliberately lied, but criticised him for not cooperating fully.