Sweden charges 2 oil executives for war crimes in Sudan

US & World

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Sweden has charged two executives of a Swedish oil exploration and production company for complicity in the military’s war crimes in Sudan from 1999 to 2003, including in its dealings with the country’s regime to secure the company’s oil operations in the African nation.

The two, who were not identified by the Swedish Prosecution Authority, had “a decisive influence” on the business of Stockholm-based Lundin Oil AB in Sudan, the prosecutors said, adding one was indicted for complicity for the period May 1999-March 2003, and the other for the period October 2000-March 2003. Lundin Oil later became Lundin Petroleum and is now known as Lundin Energy.

From 1983 to 2005, Sudan was torn apart by a civil war between the Muslim-dominated north and Christian south. A separate conflict in Darfur, the war-scarred region of western Sudan, began in 2003. Thousands of people were killed and nearly 200,000 displaced.

A 2010 report by an activist group, the European Coalition on Oil in Sudan, alleged that Lundin Oil and three other oil companies helped exacerbate the war in southern Sudan by signing an oil exploration deal with the Sudanese government for an area the regime didn’t fully control.

That led the Swedish prosecutors to open a criminal investigation into the company. Six years later, its chairman, Ian H. Lundin, and then CEO Alex Schneiter, were informed that they were the suspects of the investigation.

Lundin was the operator of a consortium of companies exploring site Block 5A, including Malaysia’s Petronas Carigali Overseas, OMV (Sudan) Exploration GmbH of Austria, and the Sudanese state-owned oil company Sudapet Ltd.

Our ”investigation shows that the military and its allied militia systematically attacked civilians or carried out indiscriminate attacks,” Public Prosecutor Henrik Attorps said in a statement.

In a reaction, Lundin spokesman Robert Eriksson said the Swedish prosecutors decision to issue charges was “incomprehensible” and called the investigation “unfounded and fundamentally flawed.”

“Both Ian and Alex strongly deny the charges, and we know that Lundin did nothing wrong. There is no evidence linking any representatives of Lundin to the alleged primary crimes in this case,” said Eriksson, head of Lundin’s media communications, said.

After the Sudanese military went into Block 5A in May 1999, Lundin Oil “changed its view of who should be responsible for the security around the company’s operations,” the prosecution said, and added that the company requested that the military should now be made responsible for the security, knowing that this meant that the military would then need to take control of Block 5A via military force.

“What constitutes complicity in a criminal sense is that they made these demands despite understanding or, in any case being indifferent to the military and the militia carrying out the war in a way that was forbidden according to international humanitarian law”, the Chief Public Prosecutor Krister Petersson said.

Eriksson said that Lundin operated in Block 5A “responsibly, as part of an international consortium, and in full alignment with the policy of constructive engagement endorsed by the United Nations, European Union and Sweden at the time.”

The authority said that there also was a claim to confiscate an amount of 1.4 billion kronor ($161 million) from Lundin Energy AB, which, according to the prosecutor, is the equivalent value of the profit of 720 million kronor ($83 million) which the company made on the sale of the business in 2003.

”It is important that these serious crimes are not forgotten. War crimes are one of the most serious crimes that Sweden has an international obligation to investigate and bring to justice,” Attorps said.

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Jari Tanner in Tallinn, Estonia, contributed to this report.

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