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Swedish secret agent's 15th century castle up for auction

David Landes · 13 Oct 2009, 17:50

Published: 13 Oct 2009 17:50 GMT+02:00

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Dybäck Castle, situated near Skurup, is Sweden’s southernmost manor house and consists of a series of buildings dating from the 15th, 16th, and 17th centuries.

The main building boasts 26 rooms, a moat, and is situated near a tree-lined park and 500 hectares of farmland.

The estate belongs to Claes Ebbe Alwén, whose family has owned Dybäck since 1921, but who has been plagued by financial troubles due in part to sloppy bookkeeping related to his work as a secret agent for the Swedish military.

The Swedish Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden), the body administering the auction, expects to raise at least 100 million kronor ($14.2 million) through the sale of Dybäck, where Alwén entertained the Swedish military’s top brass with elegant dinners and hunting outings in the early 1990s in an effort to woo his eventual paymasters.

At the time, the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration (FMV) was looking for a way to acquire secret military technology from Russia.

In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was no shortage of military equipment for sale, or Russian officials interested in making some money on the side.

With 20 years of experience buying and selling feed, fertilizer, and horses in Russia, Alwén had an extensive network of business contacts, making him a perfect candidate for FMV’s mission.

For eight years, Alwén used his fertilizer business as a cover to hide the transactions carried out at the behest of FMV.

One of Alwén’s first deals was an attempted acquisition of a MIG-29 fighter jet.

While he managed to put the deal together through existing contacts, FMV balked at the price demanded by the Russian sellers and backed out before the purchase took place, according a 2003 report in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

Among the technologies acquired by Alwén was a classified radar system which FMV asked him to purchase from Russia in 1995.

The radar system acquired by Alwén was critical for testing the capabilities of Sweden’s JAS-39 fighter jet, which was still under development at the time.

The equipment was then smuggled into Sweden, reconstructed near an Air Force testing site in Linköping, and christened “Ebbe” in honour of the enterprising Swedish fertilizer merchant, according to DN.

It remains unclear whether the acquisition of the radar system violated Swedish or Russian laws. While Alwén has long claimed the deal was approved by authorities in both countries, he admits that bribes were paid to Russian agents along the way.

The transactions were carried out through Exico, a company run by Alwén which went bankrupt in 2002 with debts of more than 8 million kronor. According to reports in the Sydsvenskan newspaper, FMV paid the company more than 100 million kronor, 80 million of which was unaccounted for and is thought to have been used to pay bribes to various Russians in key positions.

Documents related to Alwén’s activities have been classified by both FMV and Sweden’s Inspectorate for Strategic Produces (ISP), which oversees trade in military technology, testifying to the sensitivity of the transactions.

As investigators began looking into the company’s books, more details about his secret work for FMV came to light, prompting more questions about just where the money had gone.

On at least one occasion, Alwén is said to have filled a shopping bag with dollars to hand over to Russian contacts at an airport, according to a 2003 report in the Ystads Allehanda newspaper.

Story continues below…

In Exico’s books, there are transactions labeled “Russian expenses” and “payment to Vladimir”.

In July 2003, Alwén was sentenced to two and a half years in prison for aggravated fraud and tax crimes and ever since then Kronofogden has been working to recoup the disgraced estate owner’s debts.

“I started to carry out the liquidation back in 2003. Since then, debts have continued to pile up,” Lennart Nilsson of the Swedish Enforcement Agency (Kronofogden) told the Skånska Dagbladet newspaper.

The agency plans to auction off Dybäck in Malmö on November 11th in an effort to raise money to pay off the estimated 23 million kronor in debt owed by Alwén to Kronofogden.

The liquidation has dragged on for years in part because the estate was in the process of being split up, but the process was eventually halted by a December 2008 Supreme Court ruling, paving the way for Kronofogden to continue its work.

David Landes (david.landes@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

22:41 October 13, 2009 by Juan Gutierrez

Is this how they thank a man who did so much for the country (at least the military industry).

What did they expect signed invoices??!!! Morons.......
22:50 October 13, 2009 by conboy
Interesting story all the same I heard a report on P 1 (Swedish news radio) not so long ago about how Huskvarna in Linköping got their start by copying Singer sewing machines before they branched out into bicycles and single shot rifles - from little acorns now I understand why the Thai's and the Swedes get on so well together loads of sex and plaigarism
00:12 October 14, 2009 by Kr0n
... and if we think about the actual ways smuggling was done... then we will remember the ferry Estonia, which was blown up and sank in the Baltic Sea. The tragedy was never investigated in full, because Estonian (and, yes, Swedish) authorities are prohibiting any research around this event. The sinking location in the sea is guarded and any diving and filming is prohibited. So much for the "open Swedish society"...
13:17 October 14, 2009 by Beynch
Where do I sign?
10:00 October 15, 2009 by craicen
Trow is that you, secret agent man?

Shows what you get for being loyal to Sweden, a knife in the back!
22:28 October 16, 2009 by wenddiver
Maybe the title should be Swedish Patriot hunted by useful idiots of Russia?? I can't help but think that Sweden is safer knowing how Russia and other potential adversaries radar works.
08:40 October 25, 2009 by Muad'Dib
Off topic:

Are you sure about this building being a "castle"?

Well, my native language has many more suitable expressions, and I believe that so does English.

To me, it looks like a manor house (as correctly stated in the text).

Maybe it was a castle, eventually rebuilt into a manor house; the name has simply remained.

On topic:

Are they serious that they "balked" at the supposedly high price?

Granted, they might not have gotten acces to the best, latest and most superior technology, but what else they could expect?

Do they really think that state-of-the-art technology, often surpassing that of the US, with years of possibly very expensive development will be cheap, or what?!
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