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Former 'top Swedish military figure' held after dawn raid

TT/The Local
TT/The Local - [email protected]
Former 'top Swedish military figure' held after dawn raid
Swedish security police headquarters. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

A former "top Swedish military figure" was arrested this week along with his wife in a dawn raid by Swedish security police on suspicion of unauthorised possession of classified information.

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Sweden's security police, Säpo, confirmed to TT newswire that raids were carried out at multiple locations on Tuesday and evidence has been seized, which according to Expressen includes computers and mobile phones.

Both suspects are being held isolated in separate cells with no access to television or radio and are not permitted to contact the outside world, Expressen reports.

"The suspects are both suspected of extremely serious crimes," Säpo press spokesperson Adam Samara told TT newswire.

The man has had a number of key positions within the Swedish armed forces, Expressen reports, both in Sweden and abroad. He has also been linked to the Swedish Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST), but now works in a different government authority.

Säpo would not comment on where the couple work.

"It's very early, and that's why we can't say much," Samara said.

"We are currently in the very early stages of an ongoing investigation," he added. "As a result of that, it's very difficult for us to describe the case or how we are handling it."

According to Expressen, high-up leadership in the Swedish Armed Forces have been informed of the case, including Supreme Commander of the Swedish Armed Forces, Micael Bydén. Ministers including Defence Minister Pål Jonsson and Justice Minister Gunnar Strömmer have also been briefed.

Jonsson would not comment on the case.

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Tony Ingesson, an intelligence researcher at Lund University, explained that the classification of the crime can give some clues as to the subject of the case.

"They've handled classified information in a way which they shouldn't have. And the crime is classified as serious, that usually means that this is particularly sensitive information."

The difference between unauthorised possession of classified information and espionage is that there is no proof that there was an intention to pass the information on to foreign powers.

"That can mean two things," Ingesson said. "Either they haven't been able to prove it, but they suspect it, or the suspects had no intention to do so."

If the reports that the man arrested is a former top military figure, the crime could, for example, have consisted of holding on to classified information that he was permitted to access in his previous role but no longer has security clearance for.

"I wouldn't rule it out," Ingesson said. "Security clearance is determined based on what officials need for their work, and if there's no longer a need for someone to have access to that information, then security clearance is also withdrawn."

"So even if someone has had security clearance for one particular document previously, that doesn't mean they have clearance for ever."

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How does unauthorised possession of classified information differ from espionage?

Both espionage and unauthorised possession of classified information fall under a category of crimes which are considered crimes against Swedish security, according to the Swedish criminal code.

If there's no evidence of an intention to assist a foreign power, the crime is considered to be unauthorised possession of classified information.

At the lower end of the scale, it can result in fines or a maximum of two years in prison. For serious cases, which this case appears to fall in to, the maximum sentence is four years in prison.

It's also possible to be sentenced for carelessness with classified information, if the crime was a result of gross negligence. 

Espionage, according to the law, means that there was an intention to collect, pass on or reveal classified information - for example information on Swedish defences - to a foreign power.

The maximum sentence for low-level espionage is six years in prison, while the maximum sentence for serious espionage can result in a life sentence.

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