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15 Jan, 2020 17:21

‘Totally incomprehensible’: ’Fake officer’ lied his way into Swedish military intel & NATO, hid forged credentials for decade

‘Totally incomprehensible’: ’Fake officer’ lied his way into Swedish military intel & NATO, hid forged credentials for decade

A Swedish man with no official training faked his way into the top ranks of Swedish military intelligence, helming sensitive projects before he was posted to NATO and later the Coast Guard. How did this happen?

The Swedish Armed Forces – and now NATO, which only learned of the deception this week – are furious, demanding to know how the man was able to slip through the cracks even after he was discovered and booted from his high-ranking Coast Guard post in January 2019 – only to reemerge at the helm of Sweden’s UN mission to Mali.

The faker first bluffed his way into a supervisory role in the military in Kosovo and Afghanistan, forging a diploma from the Signal Troops Officers’ College in Enköping with a fake colonel’s signature, Dagens Nyheter revealed on Monday.

He later faked higher degrees and special training in order to take on more senior positions in military intelligence, supervising not only other soldiers but also information security. These were important positions, with the impersonator overseeing the development of cryptographic keys at the Military Intelligence and Security Service (MUST) – meaning responsibility for the military’s secure communications rested on his shoulders.

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In 2012, the fraudster was assigned to NATO in Brussels, the outlet revealed earlier this week. He even received a medal for his service, before crossing over to the private sector to work in information security with a subsidiary of defense contractor Saab.

The situation is “totally incomprehensible,” NATO expert Ann-Sofie Dahl lamented to DN, adding that it was “very, very worrying for Sweden’s cooperation with NATO.” It was a “feather in [Sweden’s] cap” to be permitted to work so closely with the alliance, Dahl said, and “it will take a very long time and great efforts to repair” trust in the country.

The impersonator wasn’t even found out during his time with NATO. In fact, he was promoted to lieutenant colonel so that he could work with more senior officers. He successfully hid for another five years, joining the Coast Guard in a high-ranking role with access to classified material. Only in December 2018 did the service find out he was lying about his credentials, removing him from his post the following month.

Somehow, though, that wasn’t the end of his military career. The Swedish Armed Forces is trying to figure out how he subsequently ended up as chief of staff for Sweden’s UN operation in Mali.

Lieutenant Colonel Carl-Axel Blomdahl, who is leading the official investigation into the case, insists they never got the warning from the Coast Guard about the man with the “doubtful CV.”

Had we had access to the information, we would have acted on it,” he insisted. Blomdahl nevertheless waited to break the bad news to NATO until Monday, when DN published its own investigation exposing the man’s forged credentials. Needless to say, Brussels was not pleased.

I don’t know exactly how to describe their reaction. But they don’t think this is particularly good,” Blomdahl told DN.

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Armed Forces Commander-in-chief Micael Bydén demanded to know why the man’s deception was not shared with all branches of military command, ordering an investigation to “get to the bottom of this” in a written statement seen by DN.

Moderate Party leader Ulf Kristersson also demanded to know how the fraudster had gone undiscovered for a decade, likening the fiasco to the 2017 IT scandal at the Swedish Transport Agency, in which a huge trove of sensitive data was leaked, forcing several government ministers to resign in disgrace.

Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist acknowledged that the ministry had received a notice from the Ministry of Justice about the faker. But since he had been removed from his Coast Guard position, explained Hultqvist’s press secretary, “the issue was… deemed to be resolved, and there was no reason to inform the Defense Ministry’s political leadership.” Hultqvist and Bydén have both been called before the Swedish parliament’s defense committee to answer questions about the case. 

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