The Swedish Armed Forces has sent a fake officer, whose military career is now under investigation, to NATO Headquarters in Belgium, Dagens Nyheter reported.
The man had been promoted to major with fictitious credentials, but when the NATO service was extended, he was temporarily promoted to lieutenant colonel to be able to work with higher-ranking foreign officers.
“Of course, it's not good that this has happened. We must send real officers to these positions and of course ensure that we have the right expertise on the staff,” military investigator Carl-Axel Blomdahl told Dagens Nyheter.
The man claimed to have graduated from the Signal Troops Officer's College in Enköping in 1999 despite actually never having studied there. He forged his diploma with the signature of a non-existent colonel.
Subsequently, the man served as a captain in Kosovo and major in Afghanistan, where he supervised soldiers and was responsible for information security. For that, he needed both a reserve officer's degree and a special education from the National Defence College – but lacked both, Dagens Nyheter reported.
Between 2007 and 2010, and again in 2013, the man worked at the Military Intelligence and Security Service (Must). There, he developed systems for managing crypto keys that make defence telecommunications unreadable for foreign intelligence. He has also worked for several years in one of the defence group Saab's subsidiaries, where he dealt with data protection for the Swedish Defence Materiel Administration.
The fake officer was commissioned to NATO in 2013. The bluff was not revealed until five years later by the Coast Guard, where the man had a high post with access to classified materials. Despite the fact that the military was alerted, in the summer of 2019 he was picked for a senior executive post in the Swedish UN operation in Mali.
"Totally incomprehensible. And very, very worrying for Sweden's collaboration with NATO," Nato expert Ann-Sofie Dahl said.
The Coast Guard claimed to have removed him from his top job and informed the Armed Forces in December 2018, upon discovering that the man was lying about his military credentials. The Armed Forces, however, blamed its own inaction on the lack on information from the Coast Guard.
“Had we had access to the information, we would have acted on it”, Carl-Axel Blomdahl said.
Defence Minister Peter Hultqvist confirmed that his ministry received official information from the Ministry of Justice about the man from the Coast Guard with “a doubtful CV” last January, whereupon the Coast Guard took the man out of service and informed the Armed Forces.
“The issue was therefore deemed to be resolved, and there was no reason to inform the Defence Ministry's political leadership,” Hultqvist's press secretary Toni Eriksson said.
Retired Colonel Jan Petersson, former head of the the Swedish Armed Forces Command Center in Enköping, called the fake officer a “security risk”.
Commander-in-chief Micael Bydén became aware of the security report earlier this week and ordered an investigation into why the military command failed to act upon the revelation immediately.
“This is not to happen and we must now get to the bottom of this,” Micael Bydén said in a written statement, calling the situation “serious”.
Sweden remains formally non-aligned and last waged a war two hundred years ago. However, in recent years, it has markedly stepped up defence cooperation with both NATO and, at a bilateral level, with the US.