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COLOMBIA

Swede admits to FARC guns-for-drugs deal

A former Swedish night club owner held in the United States on suspicion of supplying weapons to Colombian guerrillas in exchange for cocaine, pleaded guilty on Tuesday in a US court.

Swede admits to FARC guns-for-drugs deal

Paul Mardirossian, a Swedish citizen and former owner of a string of clubs in the posh Stockholm neighbourhood of Stureplan, has been held in the United States since May after being arrested in Panama trying to sell weapons to an undercover agent.

On Tuesday, he pleaded guilty to charges of conspiring to supply weapons to Colombian guerrillas in exchange for cocaine.

”Paul Mardirossian was ready, willing, and able to supply military grade weapons to people he thought were terrorists for the express purpose of harming Americans. In return, he would receive prodigious quantities of cocaine that would ultimately poison thousands of people and net him huge profits,” said US Attorney Preet Bharara in a statement on Tuesday.

According to his US prosecutors, Mardirossian met with undercover operatives of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) in February 2010, under the assumption that they were representatives of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC).

Mardirossian then allegedly agreed to arrange the sale of military-grade weaponry to the FARC, including AK-47 assault rifles, grenade launchers, and ammunition, in exchange for “large quantities of cocaine”.

At a meeting in January, Mardirossian and a co-conspirator allegedly were told by a second DEA undercover operative that the weapons “were needed to attack a US military base that was currently under construction”.

He was arrested April 27th in Panama City shortly after coordinating the delivery of a weapons sample — a grenade launcher and AK-47 assault rifle — to an undercover officer in Copenhagen, Denmark, according to the prosecutors.

Mardirossian was remanded into custody in May in a federal court in New York and has been held without bail.

At first he pleaded not guilty to the charges, but has since changed his plea.

”Today’s guilty plea is the latest result of our ongoing efforts to dismantle the inter-connected networks of drug dealers and arms suppliers,” Bharara said on Tuesday.

The six charges include conspiring to engage in narco-terrorism (which could give him life in prison, with a mandatory minimum of 20 years in prison), conspiring to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (15 years), attempting to provide material support to a foreign terrorist organization (15 years), attempting to import five kilogrammes or more of cocaine into the United States (life, with a minimum of 10 years in prison), and money laundering (20 years).

Mardirossian is scheduled to be sentenced on May 12th.

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COLOMBIA

Swedish firm SCA in Colombian diaper probe

A company owned by scandal-hit Swedish industry giant SCA is suspected of having been part of two secret cartels to push up the price of, among other things, toilet paper and diapers in Colombia, according to a Swedish newspaper.

Swedish firm SCA in Colombian diaper probe
A company partly owned by a Swedish firm is being investigated for alleged diaper cartels. Photo: Pontus Lundahl/TT

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The companies involved are alleged to have entered into secret deals on the prices as well as quality of their products, reported Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter on Tuesday. They are part of an ongoing investigation by Colombian authorities.

Swedish forest and paper group SCA owns 50 percent of one of the firms, Productos Familia, which is a market leader in the Colombian soft paper industry.

The company, which among other things produces diapers and toilet paper, is accused of having been involved in starting these suspected cartels in 1998 and 2000.

“We take all these suspicions seriously. Familia cooperates fully with authorities to assist the investigation. The probe concerns activities up until 2013 and extends to, apart from Colombia, other countries in South America. It is yet too early to say exactly what and which countries are part of this,” SCA sustainability officer Kersti Strandqvist told Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

Stockholm-based SCA is Europe's largest private owner of forest land and manufactures paper, mainly to be used for personal care products.

The reports come as the company struggles to restore its reputation after reports of “excessive” use of private jets by its corporate heads.

READ MORE: How private jets took down a Swedish industry giant

Earlier this year, it was claimed that managers' families had been taken to a hunting lodge owned by SCA and that spouses and children had accompanied executives on foreign business trips, including to the Olympic Games in London in 2012.

The scandal caused unprecedented upheaval to Sweden's boardrooms, with four of its biggest companies – Handelsbanken, Industrivärden, SCA and steelmaker SSAB – all receiving new chairmen earlier this year.