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Swedes paid off Russian expert in secret intel deal

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Swedes paid off Russian expert in secret intel deal
10:29 CEST+02:00
Two Swedish military agencies at the centre of a scandal over plans to help build a weapons factory in Saudi Arabia also secretly paid millions of kronor to a Russian arms expert for information relevant to the project, a new report has revealed.

In March, Sveriges Radio (SR) revealed that the Swedish Defence Research Agency (Totalförsvarets forskningsinstitut - FOI) had created a shell company to oversee construction of a factory in Saudi Arabia for the maintenance and upgrade of anti-tank missile systems.

The company was set up in order to avoid any direct ties between the project and the Swedish government and cash for starting the company was provided by the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service (Militära underrättelse- och säkerhetstjänsten – MUST).

While a probe into the legality of the controversial plan, known as Project Simoom, was dropped in September, a new SR report on Wednesday revealed that FOI and MUST secretly paid a Russian weapons expert for information FOI needed in order to complete a study related to the construction of the factory.

According to SR, experts at FOI needed help in their efforts to help provide Saudi Arabia with the information required for the country to develop a domestic arms industry.

Through informal channels, the agency identified a Russian expert with ties to the Russian state who could provide the information FOI needed.

In a secret operation carried out with MUST, FOI paid 500,000 kronor ($75,000) in cash in order to persuade the expert to hand over the vital weapons intelligence.

According to SR, MUST provided the cash and two officials from FOI were present for the handover, in a deal that was meant to be kept secret from Russian authorities.

Following the payment, which took place in late 2007, FOI was able to complete the report requested by the Saudis.

The operation was confirmed for SR by a centrally placed source in the Swedish government, although a spokesperson for MUST refused to comment on the matter.

"The contents of intelligence work, what people work with...that is by its very nature not something you reveal to the public," MUST spokesperson Erik Lagersten told SR.

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