• Sweden's news in English

Cybersex Swedes claim they did 'nothing wrong'

AFP/The Local · 13 May 2011, 07:20

Published: 13 May 2011 07:20 GMT+02:00

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Emil Andreas Solemo, 35,and Bo Stefan Sederholm, 31, were convicted of human trafficking this week after being found running an operation in which 17 naked women in an office building performed in front of cameras for overseas internet clients.

The government hailed the verdict as a landmark victory in the battle against human trafficking because the Swedes were the first to be handed life sentences for what has in recent years become a booming cybersex industry.

But both men claim most of the evidence against them was fabricated or obtained illegally, and appear bewildered why they should be jailed for Internet pornography when prostitution is rampant across the Philippines.

"We don't see ourselves as human traffickers at all," Solemo, 35, said in an exclusive interview with AFP on Thursday from a crowded jail in the southern city of Cagayan de Oro where they have been since their arrest in April 2009.

Sederholm, 31, bristled at their portrayal by the Philippine press as modern-day slave traders.

"The women were not forced to do it. It was nothing like that at all," said Sederholm, who like his business partner was wearing a prison-issue yellow T-shirt, long shorts and a sandals.

Solemo, a tall man with gold-rimmed glasses and a goatee, said he and Sederholm were IT consultants who had been hired to set up the computer systems at the cybersex shop where the women worked in Cagayan de Oro.

Although they refused to say who hired them, they denied police charges that they owned the business and recruited the women, saying they only arrived in the country a month before being arrested.

The Swedes also pointed out that the women working in the cybersex operation were all adults - prosecutors never alleged that minors were involved - and said the case against them smacked of hypocrisy.

"Some say it's (cybersex) demeaning and horrible, but you can go to any city in the Philippines and see girls who are dancing on poles in skimpy clothes. It's absurd...there are places there that openly sell girls," Solemo said.

"What we have undertaken here would not have been considered as trafficking anywhere in the West. In the United States or elsewhere it is not illegal to undress before computer cameras if you are of legal age."

Sederholm said they believed they had become scapegoats to make authorities look good to the United States, which put the Philippines on a blacklist of countries deemed as not doing enough to combat human trafficking.

"They wanted to make a trophy case of us to show to the United States that something is being done about human trafficking," Sederholm said.

But the judge who delivered the verdict against the Swedes, Jeoffre Acebido, said anyone who sexually exploited impoverished Philippine women should be punished.

"Disrespect for Filipino women and violations of our laws deserve the strongest condemnations from this court," Acebido wrote in his ruling.

"It will not shirk from its duty to impose the most severe of penalties against anybody, be he a foreign national or a citizen of this country, who tramples upon the dignity of a woman by taking advantage of her vulnerability."

Beverly Musli, the head of a local women's rights group that helped prosecutors gather evidence in the case, also said the Swedes deserved to be in jail.

"It's still trafficking because the victims were recruited from all over the Philippines and transported to the south," said Musli, who is a lawyer.

Story continues below…

She said focusing on cybersex when prostitution was a widespread and open problem across the country was not hypocrisy.

"We are doing our best in stopping all forms of violence against women," she said.

Both Swedes said they had not given up hope that they would win an acquittal on appeal.

"You just can't bury yourself and say you'll not move, not eat. We have to keep going and hoping. Of course we will appeal. We're not going to lie down," Solemo said.

But they indicated they were struggling physically and mentally in the crowded jail, sharing a small cell with five other people accused of crimes including murder and drug trafficking.

"In some ways it's worse than a nightmare in that you can not wake up. It's the nightmare of not knowing whether we would be spending the next 20-25 years of our life in jail," Solemo said.

Sederholm refused to discuss his personal life. But Solemo spoke emotionally about his own plight, saying his father died a month ago, his girlfriend had left him and he had lost 17 kilogrammes while in jail.

AFP/The Local (news@thelocal.se)

Facebook Twitter Google+ reddit

Your comments about this article

08:40 May 13, 2011 by TheOriginalBlackMan
Sucks to be them. Europeans read and beleive their false history written by themselves about the past and the present. Many people across the globe know that if a so called "white" person is in one's vicinity they are either trying to kill, rape, con, steal, sodomize or take advantage of people who can produce color and have no intention of doing the same. Present day, however, in reality , one can see across the globe that jails are filled with Europeans who thought their goverment would send in "Stormtroopers" to rescue them after they have commited henious crimes in countries dominated by people of colour. So sad that so called white people don't realize that the european mind is for itself and will eventually kill itself off.

Enjoy jail losers.
09:39 May 13, 2011 by this_aint_sparta
Very typical of western media to win sympathy for their criminals abroad. From sweden they went down to Philippines to fix a LAN, :-)))))) which took them a month to fix.
09:48 May 13, 2011 by spy

I can see how people could think that you are a bigoted pr*ck.
10:22 May 13, 2011 by hjoian
these guys knew what was going on. Just because something is legal in the west does not make it so globally....what a pair of ignorant idiots. Coming from a country where it is legal to sell sex but not buy it must have confused them. As stated,doesnt take that long to set up a LAN. Would they drink alcohol while on a beach ,naked,and kissing in Saudi like they could at home?? Bet you wish you were doing time in Sweden eh?
11:11 May 13, 2011 by local-aam
They are lucky enough not to be sentenced to death. Swedes always shout and behave arrogantly condemning the immigrants for every bad situation in Sweden. Now they are blind to see what the Swedes do outside and even inside. Shame!
11:25 May 13, 2011 by Keith #5083
If you have been to the Philippines then you would know there is some merit to their argument. That is not to defend what they have done but simply to put it in perspective.

It does appear to me, from the information available, that they have been 'singled out for exceptional punishment' compared with what is usual. It is also the case that impoverished persons seek financial reward in ways that are not always as moral as we would wish to see. As is also the case with the other extreme, of the exceptionally wealthy e.g. on Wall Street!

It would be interesting to know if there have been other similar cases where such long prison sentences have been imposed.

Notwithstanding, they deserve punishment!
13:30 May 13, 2011 by Commoner
The swedes been made scape goat. They might have started making some good money...Possibly made some enemies with the local pimps. Who knows the inside picture of the thing? These countries who inofficially earn a lot of money from prostitution now want to demonstrate that they have laws. Infact sounds funny.
13:59 May 13, 2011 by tadchem
News Flash! The Phillippines are not anywhere "in the West." The rules of business are different there. The biggest crime in the Phillippines (and in most other 'third world' nations)is to compete with the establishment. Perhaps if they had taken a local official as a 'business partner,' things might be different.
14:54 May 13, 2011 by Dilia
I totally agree with tadchem. coming from an Asian country myself... screw them those corrupted Finos... Try to save these 2 chaps, most importantly
15:13 May 13, 2011 by countrysidedrive
Life in prison for hiring whores. The are guilty of being in a immoral business. Are others doing it, yes. Are the whores guilty, yes. Are the clients guilty, yes. Are the two Swedes very stupid, yes. I could see a couple of years in jail but not life.
15:23 May 13, 2011 by calebian22
Original B.M.,

In what world do you live? Thanks for the laugh though.
15:31 May 13, 2011 by thesaint
Another nail in the coffin for people who commit heinous acts abroad, and then cry 'mummy' when caught with their hand in the cookie-jar.
16:26 May 13, 2011 by Swedesmith
I think you've hit the nail on the head, tadchem. Not enough payolla to the right people.

Original BM, once again you written an entirely racist response. I am trying to figure out if you're for real or a you are performing some brilliant schtick. Either way, thanks for the chuckle.
17:17 May 13, 2011 by jomamas
There is nothing illegal about having a cybersex house.

Sounds like the Phillipinos want to take down some white people.

Why doesn't the Swedish embassy look into this.
18:28 May 13, 2011 by muscle
Law will remain law no matter if it is practiced or not. Nothing will make something illegal to Legal. If they had to do business, then yes they should have involved some local businessman in it. Before doing business somewhere learn the market and how the business is done in that area!!!!

Its like coming from Pakistan to do MBA marketing in Sweden and then applying it back in Pakistan!
09:01 May 14, 2011 by J. L. Belmar
Typically Swedish! When do you remember having heard or read that a Swede recognizes having done something wrong? Use your memory. Try harder. Do not give up. Furthermore, when was the last time you read or heard that media are not defending Swedes who committed crimes abroad? Those two in Philippines are singing "Mammy" like Al Jolson did once upon a time:

"Mammy, mammy, the Sun shines East, the Sun shines West, but we don't know where jail is best. Mammy, rescue us, but not in Alabamy".

And please, all of those who think that Philippinos are racists are wrong. They are just getting even for the way they are treated in Sweden, but that nobody writes about that. Am I wrong?
09:12 May 14, 2011 by Nemesis
If they refuse to accept they did anything wrong, the Philipine authorities should have them examined by forensic psychiatrists and publish the results on the internet.

That will wake the two of them up and maybe a few Swedes regarding personal responsibility.
15:29 May 14, 2011 by uunbeliever
Hmmm, white Swedes committing crimes, can't be true. According to many of the usual posters here on TheLocal, it's only Eastern Europeans and Muslims that are criminals.
19:22 May 14, 2011 by Keith #5083

was that MBA or OBL marketing?
10:49 May 15, 2011 by planet.sweden

Simply put, you are mentally ill.

You should seek help before you harm either yourself or someone else.
09:53 May 17, 2011 by twapster
This verdict is testament to the complete corruption in the phillipines and the hypocritical situation where thousands of westerners travel to "meet" local girls in dance bars eg Angeles City, the girls are basically slaves to those bars selling themselves for "bar fines" which is basically sex trade, and two guys offer some respect to the women by allowing them the freedom to not be physically touched and earn a well above standard income- only to be jailed for something all of us can access in 10 seconds over the internet. Shame on anyone who preaches this is a crime- these guys are helping willing participants get above the poverty line. How is it that we all have sex yet it is illegal to pay someone to show their naked body on webcam? Absolute joke, all western countries have brothels yet you are saying if I make money from sex

im now a criminal? Life in prison for hiring whores? These girls arent even engaging in sexual intercourse, they are on WEBCAM and making more money than their families combined- HOW IS THAT EXPLOITATION!!!??
07:17 May 26, 2011 by MBrown
It is landmark decision that will probably be confirmed in appeal. Bikini bars and brothels owned by foreigners are raising money to finance the reversing of this sentence, that affecting the "normality" of their operations in the Philippines, indifference and impunity that is. Congratulations judge, Congratulations to Human rights organizations, congratulations to bloggers that keep the pressure on exposing criminals operating in the Philippines,


Your comment is awaiting moderation.

Posted by Evan ILIADIS | May 26, 2011, 1:56 am
10:12 June 9, 2011 by jacquelinee
Although I see the hypocrisy, the sentence is overly severe, If more countries took this sort of a stand when "yet another" porn trafficker shows up, perhaps you could look up -flower species, water sports, current movies etc. etc. without getting a crotch flashed in your face. It is like.."OH (yawn) another ass in the air, (Yawn) more spread legs.. I wish they would just show the damn model of car that was typed in the search field." Do you REALLY think the Swedes went to the Philipines for a "vacation" if they had a porn racket totally functioning in 1 month???? Maybe the Philipinos are tired of the DAMN Immigrants coming to their country and stealing their jobs ( to quote a swede) hahahahahahaha
Today's headlines
Sweden can extend border controls, EU says
A police officer carrying out a check at Sweden's border with Denmark. Photo: Emil Langvad/TT

EU countries including Sweden should be granted permission to extend temporary border controls by a period of a further three months, the European Commission has decided.

Nobel Prizes
'I'd say he's arrogant but I'd be lying': Swedes on Bob Dylan
Bob Dylan performing in France. Photo: David Vincent/AP

Almost two weeks have passed since Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature and he has yet to acknowledge the win. The Local asked Swedes what they think of the singer's silence.

Sweden cuts 2016 refugee forecast by thousands
A Swedish migration authority office in Stockholm. Photo: Maja Suslin/TT

The country has also slashed its prediction for 2017.

Swedish researchers plan new trucks for women drivers
File photo of trucks in Sweden. Photo: Thomas Johansson/TT

Could vehicles adapted for women attract more female truckers to the profession?

These stats show Swedish driving isn't so gender equal
File photo of a Swedish woman driving a car. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

A new survey shows that few Swedish women get behind the wheel when driving with their male partner.

Revealed: Game of Thrones could be coming to Sweden
Game of Thrones cast members at the Emmy Awards in September. Photo: Jordan Strauss/AP

The producers of the hit show have asked for three rounds of location pictures of Swedish island Gotland.

Prime Minister to meet Swedish troops in Iraq
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and his Kurdish counterpart Nechervan Barzani. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden's Prime Minister Löfven is set to meet Swedish troops in Iraq on Tuesday.

Swedish politicians wage war on winter time
Soon it will look like this on your way home from work in Sweden. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

Should Sweden stick with summer time all year round?

'Don't turn the Pope into a global teddy bear'
Sweden's Queen Silvia and Princess Leonore visiting Pope Francis in the Vatican last year. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

It's time to hold the Pope to account and make sure he turns his words about reform into action, argues a minister of the Swedish Church ahead of Pope Francis' visit to Sweden.

Löfven: 'Sweden will double its number of troops in Iraq'
Stefan Löfven and Haider al-Abadi during the visit on Monday. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven has promised to double his country's number of troops in Iraq following a meeting with Iraqi counterpart Haider al-Abadi on Monday.

Sponsored Article
Last chance to vote absentee in the US elections
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Sponsored Article
This is Malmö: Football capital of Sweden
The Local Voices
'I simply don’t believe in nationality'
Why we're convinced Game of Thrones is based on Sweden
Blog updates

6 October

10 useful hjälpverb (The Swedish Teacher) »

"Hej! I think the so-called “hjalpverb” (auxiliary verbs in English) are a good way to get…" READ »


8 July

Editor’s blog, July 8th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hej readers, It has, as always, been a bizarre, serious and hilarious week in Sweden. You…" READ »

Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 21st-23rd
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Fury at plans that 'threaten the IB's survival' in Sweden
Analysis & Opinion
Are we just going to let half the country die?
Angry elk chases Swede up a lamp post
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
The Local Voices
'Alienation in Sweden feels better: I find myself a stranger among scores of aliens'
Sponsored Article
Swedish for programmers: 'It changed my life'
People-watching: October 20th
The Local Voices
A layover at Qatar airport brought this Swedish-Kenyan couple together - now they're heading for marriage
Sponsored Article
Top 7 tips to help you learn Swedish
Swede punches clown that scared his grandmother
Sponsored Article
‘Extremism can't be defeated on the battlefield alone’
Fans throw flares and enter pitch in Swedish football riot
Could Swedish blood test solve 'Making a Murderer'?
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: creating solutions to global challenges
Property of the week: Linnéstaden, Gothenburg
Sponsored Article
Why you should 'grab a chair' on Stockholm's tech scene
Swedish school to build gender neutral changing room
Sponsored Article
Where is the Swedish music industry heading?
People-watching: October 14th-16th
Sponsored Article
One expat's strategy for making friends in Stockholm
Man in Sweden assaulted by clowns with broken bottle
Sponsored Article
Nordic fashion in focus at Stockholm University
Nobel Prize 2016: Literature
Watch the man who discovered Bob Dylan react to his Nobel Prize win
Record numbers emigrating from Sweden
People-watching: October 12th
The Local Voices
'Swedish startups should embrace newcomers' talents - there's nothing to fear'
How far right are the Sweden Democrats?
Property of the week: Triangeln, Malmö
Sweden unveils Europe's first elk hut
People-watching: October 7th-9th
The Local Voices
Syria's White Helmets: The Nobel Peace Prize would have meant a lot, but pulling a child from rubble is the greatest reward
jobs available