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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.





 


ALL ABOUT TOWN

Sunday, Oct. 26


Zenit St. Petersburg returns home for the first time in nearly a month as they host Mordovia Saransk in a Russian Premier League game. Currently at the top of the league thanks to their undefeated start to the season, the northern club hopes to extend the gap between them and second-place CSKA Moscow and win the title for the first time in three years. Tickets are available at the stadium box office or on the club’s website.



Monday, Oct. 27


Today marks the end of the art exhibit “Neophobia” at the Erarta Museum. Artists Alexey Semichov and Andrei Kuzmin took a neo-modernist approach to represent the array of fears that are ever-present throughout our lives. Tickets are 200 rubles ($4.90).



Tuesday, Oct. 28


The Domina Prestige St. Petersburg hotel plays host to SPIBA’s Marketing and Communications Committee’s round table discussion on “Government Relations Practices in Russia” this morning. The discussion starts at 9:30 a.m. and participation must be confirmed by Oct. 24.



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