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Suspected Spies Face Court Case

Published: May 13, 2003 (Issue # 866)


STOCKHOLM, Sweden - Three employees of wireless-equipment maker LM Ericsson face charges for allegedly passing secret information from the company to a Russian intelligence official, Swedish prosecutors said Thursday.

Afshin Bavand, 46, was charged with gross espionage and industrial espionage, while Mansour Rokkgireh, 44, and Alireza Rafiei Bejarkenari, 40, were charged with complicity in industrial espionage.

Bavand could be sentenced to life in prison, while Rokkgireh and Bejarkenari could get four to five years, chief prosecutor Thomas Lindstrand said. All three are Swedish citizens.

The trial is scheduled to start May 14 and last for two weeks. A verdict is expected in June.

Bavand is accused of handing over secret company information to a Russian intelligence agent, while Rokkgireh and Bejarkenari are accused of helping him gather the information.

"If these ... secrets have been given away, it is my opinion that it may cause harm to the overall defense or to the security of the country," Lindstrand said.

But Ericsson spokesperson Henry Stenson said that the espionage involved the company's commercial telecommunications systems, and not its military-related work. "The Cold War is over, but evidently there is a continued interest in gathering information."

Stockholm-based Ericsson also makes radar systems for defense programs worldwide, including for the JAS-39 Gripen fighter planes made by Sweden's Saab and Britain's BAE Systems.

The suspects worked in the development unit but did not hold high-ranking positions, according to Ericsson.

Bavand was arrested in November while talking to a Russian intelligence agent near Stockholm. Police searched the Russian, who was not identified, and found $4,000 and Ericsson documents.

Sweden responded by expelling two Russian diplomats. Russia later expelled two Swedish diplomats, apparently in retaliation.





 


Times Talk

ALL ABOUT TOWN

Friday, Apr. 18


Teachers and students alike shouldn’t miss the opportunity to establish lasting contacts with Russian and foreign institutions during the 21st Education and Career Fair at LenExpo, beginning today and finishing tomorrow. Learn more about education in Russia and connect with your fellow scholars.


The Tromso International Film Festival, Norway’s largest, brings a short festival to St. Petersburg for one day only during Scandinavian Oddities, starting at 7 p.m. today at Rodina Cinema Center. Tickets for the event are 100 rubles ($2.80).


Sunday, Apr. 20


Celebrate Easter at Pavlovsk during the Easter Fair that begins today and continues through next Sunday. Visitors will have the chance to paint Easter eggs and children can take part in games as well as help decorate a tree in honor of Christianity’s holiest day.


Today is one of the final days to see the exhibit Cacti — Children of the Sun at the Peter the Great Botanical Garden. Starting Apr. 17, budding botanists will marvel at the variety and beauty of the desert’s most iconic plant.


Monday, Apr. 21


Improve your grasp of Neruda, Bolano and Marquez at TrueDA’s Beginners Spanish Lesson this evening at their location on the Petrograd Side. An experienced teacher will be on hand to help all attendees better understand the intricacies of the language and improve their accent.


Tuesday, Apr. 22


SPIBA’s Breakfast with the Director event series continues as the association welcomes Andrei Barannikov, general director of SPN Communications, to the Anna Pavlova Hall of the Angleterre Hotel this morning at 9 a.m. Attendees must confirm their participation by Apr. 21.


The AmCham Environment, Health and Safety Committee Meeting is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. this morning in the their St. Petersburg office.