Wanted Swedish couple arrested in Vietnam

A couple from northern Sweden who fled the country after being convicted for swindling unknowing Swedes into funding fictional projects in Thailand have been arrested in Vietnam.

Wanted Swedish couple arrested in Vietnam
The beach near Phan Thiet City, where the Swedish couple was arrested

Birgitta Eklund Mickelsson and Göran Lundgren, both 58, were each sentenced to two and a half years in prison by the Svea Court of Appeal in April 2010 for defrauding Swedes of nearly one million kronor to pay for fictitious building projects in Thailand between 2005 and 2007.

But before they started to serve their sentence, the pair fled Sweden, prompting Swedish authorities to issue an international arrest warrant in late 2010.

After a year on the run, however, Eklund Mickelsson and Lundgren were arrested by police in Phan Thiet City in Binh Thuan Province, southern Vietnam on December 23rd.

The Swedish National Bureau of Investigation (Rikskriminalpolisen) is now trying to get the pair extradited to Sweden, said Niclas Carlsson, deputy assistant head of the Division of International Police Cooperation (IPO), to the local Norran newspaper.

“I can reveal that we have been communicating with the Vietnamese authorities, but other than that I do not want to comment any further,” he told the newspaper.

According to Norran, the couple had reportedly fled to Vietnam to launch new construction projects.

Several witnesses have said they met the couple in Vietnam and detailed information has been given to the police about the couple’s whereabouts.

A spokesperson from the Swedish foreign ministry confirmed that Eklund Mickelsson and Lundgren had been arrested.

“A person from the Swedish consulate in Saigon is going to visit them and see if they need anything,” foreign ministry spokesperson Jan Janonius told the Metro newspaper.

Although Niclas Carlsson at the IPO cannot comment on specific investigations due to confidentiality, he has revealed that the couple was arrested on 23rd December in Phan Thiet City in Binh Thuan Province, southern Vietnam.

It has not been confirmed as to how long it will take to get the couple extradited from Vietnam to Sweden.

According to Carlsson, it could take anywhere from a week to several months.

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Assange stays mum over Swedish sex crime case

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange said on Wednesday that he would not be addressing the Swedish sexual assault and rape allegations against him in his run for office in Australia, as "Australian men don't like to talk about their private lives".

Assange stays mum over Swedish sex crime case

Assange, standing for election to the upper house in September 7 national polls, also said Australian men did not bad-mouth their lovers, when asked whether he would explain himself to voters on the sex crime claims that have seen him holed up in London’s Ecuadoran embassy for more than a year.

“Unfortunately, to a degree, I am an Australian and therefore Australian men don’t like talking about their private lives,” the former computer hacker said in an online election forum published by Fairfax Media on Thursday.

“They don’t like saying bad things about their lovers. I’m not going to do that.”

Assange has been living inside Ecuador’s embassy since June 2012 as he fights extradition from Britain to Sweden, where authorities want to question him over alleged sex crimes.

The activist has voiced fears that he will be sent on to the United States to be tried over huge leaks of sensitive diplomatic correspondence and material on the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

He told the Fairfax forum, conducted Wednesday, he had “nothing to hide” on the Sweden allegations and there was “extensive information about the case” available at the site

“I have not been charged. It’s an extraordinary situation that someone could be detained for three years without charge. That’s part of the abuses in this case,” he said.

Assange acknowledged that he is not a typical politician, with questions over whether he will even be able to assume his Senate seat if he wins given his status in the embassy, but said he still felt that he could connect with voters.

“As an individual I haven’t just been an activist… I understand what it’s like to be a father, to start small businesses, to have problems of many different kinds,” he said.

“I think Australians can relate to that sort of character. Even though I’m in a very unusual position for sure, I’ve also had the life experiences that many Australians have had.”

Assange is one of seven candidates running for election to the Senate for his WikiLeaks Party, which has vowed to be an “independent scrutineer of government activity” on a range of issues including tax reform, asylum-seekers and climate change policy.

The Australian whistle blower believes he stands a good chance of winning his seat, saying this week that polling numbers are positive.

AFP/The Local/og

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