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'Lundin may have led Bildt to the heart of darkness'

The Local · 22 Dec 2011, 14:52

Published: 22 Dec 2011 14:52 GMT+01:00

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On July 1st of this year, Swedish journalists Johan Persson and Martin Schibbye were arrested after having ventured into the disputed Ogaden Province in eastern Ethiopia in the company of soldiers from the ONLF guerrillas. 

They were found guilty of terror crimes by an Ethiopian court on Wednesday.

The story of the Swedes is more than business as usual, for the Ethiopian regime and for the Swedish government. 

The affair has once again put the spotlight on Carl Bildt's previous involvement in the mining and oil group, The Lundin Group - founded by the now deceased, controversial Adolf H. Lundin - and listed on the Stockholm and Toronto stock exchanges. 

This time it's about Carl Bildt sitting on the board and being involved in negotiating the agreement between Lundin Petroleum and the Ethiopian regime in Addis Ababa.

And it was precisely the Lundin Group's presence and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in connection with the establishment of the deal that the Swedish journalists wanted to investigate. 

When it became known that the Swedes had been arrested Carl Bildt commented: "It's an area we have been advised against traveling to because it is a dangerous area." 

The foreign minister's statement has caused concern and anger among Schibbye and Persson's fellow journalists, and many Swedish publishers are today asking the question: Whose interests does Carl Bildt represent - the captured Swedish citizens’ or the Ethiopian regime? 

Or perhaps his own? 

And Sweden's largest newspaper, Aftonbladet, is campaigning on its cultural pages for his resignation. 

The suspicion has not exactly diminished after Göteborgs-Posten (GP) got an interview with the head of Africa Oil in Addis Abeba, James Phillips, where he claims that he had a close cooperation with the former Swedish ambassador to Ethiopia, Staffan Tillander, and that Africa Oil and the Swedish ambassador on a regular basis exchanged “security info” and travelled in Ogaden together.

This leads to the conclusion that it's OK for Swedish companies with questionable reputations to be in Ogaden, but for Swedish journalists investigating crimes against humanity, it is not.

But the Ethiopian affair is just one of several that are haunting the Swedish foreign minister after his seven years in the Lundin sphere. 

Let us go back ten years to the year 2000. It was the year that the former prime minister (1991-1994) and EU envoy to the Balkans (1995) joined the Lundin Petroleum's board of directors. 

The seven years with the Lundin Group that followed would make Carl Bildt a wealthy man. But at what price? 

His time as a “Lundin man” follows him like a dark shadow that he can’t shake. 

This is because The Lundin Group is not just any other listed company. 

The founder, the Swedish rock engineer and oil and gas magnate Adolf H. Lundin, made a fortune back in the 1970s when he came across huge natural gas fields in Qatar.

However, the company attracted international attention the first time in 1984, when, despite the UN boycott, it mined gold in South Africa. Adolf H. Lundin, however, couldn’t be bothered with the criticism: "I do not understand the Swedish rage against this beautiful country," he told the Swedish newspaper Expressen. 

The next storm of criticism came in 1996. This time, after The Lundin Group was blacklisted by the United Nations who believed that the company had plundered the Congo for its assets.


Today, the Lundin sphere is the second largest owner of the Tenke Fungurume facility (ownership amounts to 24.5 percent) but the mine continues to be the subject of criticism from NGOs. 

Among other things, the Lundin sphere and the other owners have been criticized for having displaced people who today are forced to live under canvas, although they were promised decent housing. 

After the deals in the Congo, the Lundin ravage there has been compared to the ruthless imperialism in Joseph Conrad's novel "Heart of Darkness" in the Swedish media.

So who then was Adolf H. Lundin (1938 - 2006)? A modern variant of the ivory collector Kurtz in Joseph Conrad's novel, or a charming Indiana Jones type?

Bildt, who wrote Lundin's obituary, described him like this: 

"Adolf is a true global entrepreneur of a species that unfortunately we hardly have in Sweden."

The descriptions of Adolf H. Lundin as 100 percent contractor is substantiated by his own description of himself:

"We work without regard to political risks. (...) The only thing that is important to us is that what we are looking for can be something big.”

But for those who read the authorized biography written by journalist Robert Eriksson, now responsible at the company for Investor Relations in Europe, a different picture is presented of the tycoon who built up the Lundin empire: Adolf H. Lundin did indeed have political passion. 

He was an ardent anti-Communist who was involved in the Washington, DC-based conservative think tank, The Heritage Foundation.

Adolf H. Lundin sponsored Ronald Reagan's election campaign; in return, he and his wife Eva were invited to the Reagent inauguration in 1981. The program included a show with Frank Sinatra that the couple watched from the front row. 

So what was Adolf H. Lundin’s position towards doing business with communist countries?

He answered author Robert Eriksson like this: 

"I would not have dreamed of doing business with Soviet Communist politicians." 

When it came to the German Nazis, however, the answer is different:

"That I certainly would have done. There was no one who knew what really happened there until very late, at the end of World War II."

Among all of the controversial projects that Adolf H. Lundin initiated, there is one which even today - five years after Adolf H. Lundin's death – continues to drain the company and the Swedish foreign minister's trust capital: Sudan.


Since the summer of 2010 there has been an ongoing criminal investigation by the International Public Prosecution Office in Stockholm concerning Lundin Petroleum's operations in Sudan. 

When Carl Bildt in 2000 agreed to become a member of the board of the Lundin Group, the company had already been active there for three years. Human rights groups were early to assert that the government bombed villages and killed and expelled the local population in the province of Unity State (also called the Western Upper Nile), so that Lundin Petroleum could prospect for oil undisturbed. 

But as usual, when accused of unethical business, the company was unresponsive to criticism. When Carl Bildt was questioned in the Riksdag's Constitutional Committee in April 2007 (this time about his options in the Lundin company Vostok Nafta, all of whose assets were in Russian Gazprom) he rejected the criticism, countering that his commitment has contributed to peace in the region. 

When after the hearing in the constitutional committee, reporters pressed Carl Bildt it ended as it often does with the Swedish foreign minister: he berated them, pushed on factual errors, often petty, in the questions - and got laughs and sympathy on his side. 

After the hearing in the constitutional committee he appeared in the Swedish media more as a hero of peace in Sudan, rather than a dubious businessman. 

And he has continued to be one of the Reinfeldt government’s most popular ministers. The criticism of him and his commitment to The Lundin Group has been brushed aside as "leftist propaganda.” 

However, lately support for Carl Bildt has begun to fade. 

His arrogant attitude to the case of the Swedish journalist Dawit Isaak, who has been imprisoned for 10 years in Eritrea without trial, has created discontent among Swedish journalists. His unwillingness to criticize first Iran (where Lundin has been active through its subsidiary Lundin Munir) and then Qaddafi, whose regime the Lundin Group long had close relations with, has disappointed many of his former supporters. 

While the majority of the world’s democratic leaders condemned Qhaddafi when he attacked demonstrators with fighter jets, Bildt took another position.

“It has nothing to do with supporting one or the other, it has to do with obtaining stability and a reasonable development,” he said.


Yet again the question needed to be raised: Did the Swedish foreign minister’s peculiar, tactful attitude towards crimes against humanity have any connection with his time as a Lundin board member?

His veto recently against EU-sanctions against Syria – called “The Ericsson factor” because of Swedish pundits' analysis that he voted against full sanctions to protect the Swedish telecom company’s interests – has also created amazement.

And now, on Wednesday, two Swedish journalists were found guilty of terror crimes by an Ethiopian court.

Lundin Petroleum first established itself in Ethiopia in 2006. The situation in Somali Ethiopia, as the area is also called, was difficult even before Lundin started looking for gas and oil there. Security consultants warned Lundin against establishing operations in the Ogaden - but in vain. 

The company signed a contract with the Ethiopian regime. 

And in connection with the establishment, the government took the opportunity to "clean up" so that no one or anything could interfere with the exploitation. 

That they wanted to get rid of various rebel groups and warring tribes is not surprising, but the allegations of the methods used are familiar ones when it comes to how the Lundin Group does business in Africa: burned villages, people displacement, and systematic rape. 

That is at least what human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and other experts claim. But the documentation of the regime's abuses in Somali Ethiopia is far from satisfactory. 

The regime has effectively isolated the area, and to visit it unlawfully is considered a terrorist crime. 

Story continues below…

This means that the army can feel safe – it's not possible to produce any evidence that could lead to prosecution in The Hague.

But multinationals in place there, such as the Swedish Lundin Group (Lundin Petroleum's operations were taken over by African Oil, in which they still have a strong interest) have had little to fear. 

The same applies to political socialites such as Carl Bildt. 

The Lundin Group's business in Ethiopia has received little media exposure. 

Until now. 

And while the criticism of Bildt's handling of the Ethiopia-Swedes is growing in strength, there is also a preliminary investigation which should may also cause the foreign minister to lose sleep: the International Public Prosecution Office in Stockholm's investigation of crimes against humanity in Sudan 1997-2003. 

No one yet has been informed they are under suspicion, and the prosecutor, Magnus Elving, has not even mentioned that it is Lundin Oil currently under investigation. 

But he confirmed that the investigation started because of a report by a human rights organization that explicitly criticized this particular company. 

When I talk with Magnus Elving he says: 

"So far we have devoted ourselves to gathering documentation. Now we are beginning to approach the stage where it becomes necessary to call in [people] for questioning." 

Prosecutor Elving is optimistic: "The investigation will take at least another year, but we will not give up so easily." 

Adolf H. Lundin died in 2006 and today the group is led by sons Lukas and Ian Lundin.

 They have invested considerable resources in re-profiling the Group and making it more socially acceptable. They have started a philanthropic operation - Lundin for Africa, and have also donated $100 million to the Clinton Foundation. 

In a business context, The Lundin Group has made headlines recently for having made a giant oil discovery in the North Sea that caused its shares to shoot up. 

Despite happy charities and investors, questions about what really happened when Lundin Petroleum established itself in Somali Ethiopia have not disappeared. 

Recently, when The Lundin Group was discussed at a conference on conflict minerals at Clark University in Worcester Massachusetts, a participant commented:

"Was it the Lundin family that Stieg Larsson had in mind when he drew his portrait of capitalists?" 

Leo Lagercrantz is an award winning investigative journalist and former editor of the opinion pages at the Swedish tabloid Expressen.

A previous version of the article was originally published in the Expressen newspaper in October

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

20:32 December 22, 2011 by sgt_doom
Outstanding article, and truly appropriate to this day as another reason why Bildt (and the Justice Minister he appoined as PM, Beatrice Ask) is pushing for the extradition of Wikileaks' Julian Assange (kind of nervous about those leaked cables, huh, Mr. Bildt?).
23:38 December 22, 2011 by Europaia
Assange is a pathetic megalomaniac who is nothing more than a waste of space and the cables have not revealed anything of any particular significance. As if Carl Bildt could care less about that nonsense. Bildt is, however, a very dodgy, as well as a highly opinionated and arrogant, individual and this is a very important article.

I'm wondering, however, surely a vote on sanctions against Syria is not just up to the personal whim of the Foreign Minister. Wouldn't this have had to be discussed and decided upon by the whole government?
08:43 December 23, 2011 by Frobobbles
Western companies leave the oil business in Africa. It becomes politically impossible for them. Chinese companies take over, and get a monopoly. Then we hear no criticism. Go figure.
12:40 December 23, 2011 by Larry Thrash
I wonder where the true is in this article. It is written to demonize capitalism and capitalist not to get at the real truth. Journalist are pure as the wind driven snow and aren't subject to criticism.
23:03 December 23, 2011 by h2m
It is heart breaking to know how far can some politicians go to fetch goods. as person from the Ogaden where the two young and Brave journalists were arrested, what wonders me a lot is the double standards of the west when it comes to the Ethiopia democracy and rule of law. In ever Report be it the State department annual human right report, and international Right campaigners have equivocally documented human right violations in Ethiopia . despite all these reports, west keep funding the regime in running the killing machine.

why do west shy away supporting the Ethiopian people instead of pupping a regime that has no respect for human rights?

is not the west that was conditioning aid on the human right conditions in those countries they do not like their foreign policies?

is morally sound is to sell of the Ethiopian peoples rights for democracy to sub contract on counter terrorism in Somalia?

although Sweden has already ruled out cutting aid to Ethiopia. I do not support cutting aid because swedes become victims of the same dictator they nourished out, but it is morally sound to cut the blood aid on the ground of the regime and treatment of its own people rather
23:52 December 23, 2011 by Extraterrestrial

We don't care what Sweden does with her aid, to help or not to help is up to them, our territory will remain intact with or without aid. However, I want to remind you that the two journalists were not brave in any measure, entering a sovereign territory illegally with the company of terrorists was not brave at all.
00:45 December 24, 2011 by h2m

killing, displacing and burning of villages for LUNDIN oil exploration is not illegal to you as you see it, but why sweden took part in Libiya operation if it is not for human right notion. AS long as your tax money is killing us we do not care the crocodile cry you write in HRW and other lobby companies because we know you are killing us slowly and softly through funding Meles zenawi regime.

keep funding and change the course at 11 hour when outcome becomes clear that the regime would not survive and pick up your motto of democracy,rule of law as new prophet who just come out from heaven as you do always. and did in Egypt after supporting 30 years and changed course at 11 hr
04:11 December 25, 2011 by ye_hiwot
@h2m, I must say either you are a true believer at what the western media say to the extent what the Quran/or Bible says or you must be humble. Seeing the no say in Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait atrocities, I don't see the logic that Sweden's involvement in Libya bombing was to 'safe guard' human right. Economy matters! Nations should have interest worth of investing. Do not rely on the perceived changed that would be brought from exile. The solution must be within. African problem needs African solution! No mercenaries...no missionaries, just our own affairs!
09:12 December 25, 2011 by Extraterrestrial

Spare me from the human rights notion mambo jumbo, Europe never went to Libya to defend human rights but, to defend their economic and strategic interest. If Europe was interested in human rights they wouldn't have been silent on the massacre of African migrants in Libya by the rebels. More than anything else there are many African countries badly in need of military intervention than Libya.

If you are talking about human rights issues in Ethiopia we will do it under the right topic including the well documented activity of the terrorist rebel army of the ONLF that have been slaughtering the very people claimed to liberate and the Ethiopian people at large.

Stick to the topic and the questions are: why was it necessary for a foreign journalist to cross an international border of a sovereign nation illegally, why was it necessary for a journalist to carry guns, why was it necessary to seek the company of a rebel army known for its terrorist activity in the region? There are many question no one can answer to claim those" journalists" innocence.

Whether Europe gives aid to Ethiopia or not any terrorist organization like the ONLF will never be allowed to roam around Ethiopian territory and terrorize innocent citizens and hinder development.
18:01 December 25, 2011 by Leo Lagercrantz
Note from the author:

In the text it is stated that Carl Bildt wrote the obituary for Adolf Lundin. This is incorrect; he wrote the obituary for his brother.
03:45 December 26, 2011 by BBKING
Near the beginning of the article why did you refer to the Swedish government as a government and the Ethiopian equivalent as a regime? I see bias.
06:30 December 26, 2011 by Carbarrister
Maybe there is an issue here but the more I read the more I became sympathetic to Bildt and Lundin. Maybe they were not the best at PR, but Sweden is lucky to have such entrepreneurs willing to do business in some of the worst places on the planet.

Perhaps the article could be re-written to identify the accusers rather than some one at the UN, "NGOs" or unnamed "participants" at conferences or unsubstantiated allegations. I would like to understand what laws were violated and given the conviction of the Swedish journalists where would the "rule of law" be applied.
22:13 December 27, 2011 by Geele
This verdict shows that how the Ethiopian people were left under the mercy of brutal regime. Ironically this regime uses western aide as a tool to silence freedom and democracy activists

The question is will the western donors stop Dictator Meles Zenawi's participation in G20 meetings and glorifying his image until he accepts journalists to report from Ethiopia

Free the journalists

Stop helping this tyranny
11:59 December 28, 2011 by RobinHood
Mr Lagercrantz

There is a line beyond which investigative journalism ends and mad conspiracy theory obsession begins. I think you might be over it. You and several of Sweden's finest investigative journalists have developed the Bildt/Lundin/Africa story for years. Thousands of hours of research, and this is the best you can come up with? The title to this piece with that word "may"! Qualifying words like "perhaps"! Questions such as "Did the Swedish foreign minister's peculiar, tactful attitude towards crimes against humanity have any connection with his time as a Lundin board member?" These are the stock phrases of obsessed, whacko conspiracy theorist writers who mine the profitable market of obsessed, whacko conspiracy theorist readers who think 9/11 was a US government and Jewish plot, or that man never actually walked on the moon. Keep this up and the Bildt/Lundin story will join the Protocols and Area 11, and you will join the ranks of those who propagate such nonsense.

You clearly dislike Mr Bildt. Perhaps because you sincerely believe (despite all the research so far) that he is indeed "dirty", perhaps because he is rich and arrogant? Your dislike drips from your prose in such prodigious quantities, it puts your professional reputation at risk.

One of the hardest things for a journalist to do is to drop a story that will not stand up. For your professional reputation, and for your mental health, I suggest you have a long think about what Mr Bildt means to you. Keep the word obsession to the front of your mind while you do so.
13:54 December 28, 2011 by keros davido
What would be the case if it were in the borders' of the united states? why don't we be fair and justice instead of accusing the Ethiopian government for protecting its constitution? why did they choose that route while they can investigate the situation in different ways. Why were they dismissed from the country while on a tourist in the country before they join the guerrilla rebels? They really deserve it anyway.
21:58 December 28, 2011 by sgt_doom
#14, RobberHoodlum, what's with the forever chanting of "conspiracy theory," "conspiracy theory,"???

Such is the method of cowards and those incapable of debate. Simply state the facts.

Oh? No facts on your side, as usual?

Why doesn't Borgstrom and Claus run to the aid of these reporters?

These two corporate attorneys only do specially Ministry of Justice-pressured cases? (Extradition of Wikileaks' Assange.....for questioning?????)

And regarding 9/11 you mentioned, oh ignorant one: the latest data from several of the aircraft's black boxes, thanks to lengthy freedom-of-information requests to the government, gives no indicate whatsoever of any hijacking taking place, and the highly technical fact that the transponders were ALL turned off, ONLY after all of the aircraft flew into little no "radar dark zones" --- casts further suspicious on official Cheney-Bush conspiracy theory.
09:18 December 29, 2011 by RobinHood
@sergeant doom

Thank you for presenting Mr Lagercrantz with an example of how an "obsessed whacko conspiracy theorist" writes.

Mr Lagercrantz. You are beginning to write like the good sergeant. Do you really want to be associated with people like that?
10:39 December 30, 2011 by kynan
Ethiopian regimes fear the truth. That is why journalist are like the angle of death to them. But actions speak louder!
15:44 December 30, 2011 by Great Scott
Don't you think Carl Bildt would look smashing in an SS uniform?
05:50 January 9, 2012 by dunce
Great political hit job by smearing Bildt with guilt by association with Lundin, though neither has been charged with any crime. If there were crimes committed, they were by the governments in these other countries. These noble savages have no history of violence against their own people. Sarcasm intended in case Swedish readers misunderstand.
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