Bildt – there was no conflict of interest

Carl Bildt has admitted to a parliamentary committee that he could have refrained from cashing in on his controversial share options in the Vostok Nafta investment company. But, the Swedish foreign minister told the Constitution Committee on Tuesday, he saw no reason not to sell.

Bildt has been reported to the committee by a number of MPs. The minister’s shareholdings presented a potential conflict of interest, it is alleged. Vostok Nafta’s holdings are also exclusively comprised of shares in Russian state energy giant Gazprom, which is attempting to build a gas pipeline across the Baltic Sea, through Sweden’s economic zone.

Bildt converted his options in December. He said that he could not have stayed out of the options programme, as it had been decided upon at the company’s annual general meeting one year previously.

“It was not possible for me to deny its existence or opt out of it. The discussion on conflict of interest could take place whether the value was ten kronor or ten million,” he said.

Bildt took part in a cabinet meeting in November at which a permit to the company Peter Gaz to explore the Swedish continental shelf for the pipeline from Russia to Germany was extended.

The foreign minister insisted to the committee that no actual conflict of interest arose. He referred to the Christina Weihe, chief counsel at Swedish government offices, who had previously ruled that Bildt was in the clear.

“This was an extension of a permit granted in March by the former government. It was a routing extension,” he said.