Sweden charges oil execs with Sudan war crimes

Two executives from Swedish oil company Lundin Energy have been charged with complicity in war crimes committed by Sudan’s regime between 1999 and 2003, Sweden’s Prosecution Authority said Thursday.

Alex Schneiter, a Swiss national who was vice president in charge of operations at Lundin Oil as it was known at the time, and Sweden’s Ian Lundin, chief executive from 1998-2002 and chairman of the board since 2002, have been under investigation since 2010 and were formally named as suspects in 2016.

“They are suspected of having been complicit in war crimes committed by the then Sudanese regime with the purpose of securing the company’s oil operations in southern Sudan,” the Prosecution Authority said in a statement.

The prosecution has also demanded the confiscation of 1.4 billion kronor (140 million euros, $160 million), equivalent to the profit the company made on the sale of its Sudan operations in 2003.

The company’s oil exploration field “Block 5A” was operated in a consortium with Malaysia’s Petronas, Austria’s OMV and Sudan’s Sudapet, in one of the regions worst affected by Sudan’s civil war.

– ‘Unfounded and flawed’ –

After Lundin struck oil in Block 5A in 1999, the Sudanese military, together with a militia group allied to the regime, “led offensive military operations to take control of the area and create the necessary preconditions for Lundin Oil’s oil exploration,” the prosecution said.

This included aerial bombardments, abducting, plundering and killing of civilians, and burning of entire villages — violence the prosecution said constituted war crimes. 

The two accused were complicit because Lundin Oil at the time asked Sudan’s government to make the military responsible for its security operations, “knowing that this meant that the military would then need to take control of Block 5A via military force,” the prosecution said.

Lundin Oil did so “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.”

Block 5A is located in what is South Sudan since its 2011 independence.

Sweden can prosecute crimes committed abroad in its court system, though the government had to give its approval to indict a foreign national for crimes committed abroad.

A lawyer for Ian Lundin, Torgny Wetterberg, said his client denied responsibility.

“He is disappointed that the police and prosecutors are not able to understand the facts,” he told news agency TT.

Lundin Energy spokesman Robert Eriksson meanwhile told AFP “the investigation is both unfounded and fundamentally flawed.”

“We know that Lundin did nothing wrong. There is no evidence linking any representatives of Lundin to the alleged primary crimes in this case.”