Swedish court clears dual national Skvortsov of spying for Russia


A court in Stockholm has acquitted a Russian-born Swedish man of gross unlawful intelligence activity against the US and Sweden.

Sergei Skvortsov, 60, who ran import-export companies, was accused of passing Western technology to Russia’s military intelligence service from 2013 to 2022.

He has always maintained his innocence.

Defence lawyer Ulrika Borg said he was relieved by the verdict but prosecutors still have three weeks to appeal.

Prosecutor Henrik Olin argued that Mr Skvortsov, who has lived in Sweden for 25 years, had acted as a “procurement agent” to supply electronics to Russia’s military and its GRU military intelligence service.

Stockholm district court was told he had provided information through two companies about goods that were barred from export to Russia, before helping to buy and transport the goods by providing misleading information.

Mr Olin argued that the defendant’s companies were part of Russia’s procurement system and he sought a five-year jail term for a man he identified as a serious threat to US and Swedish security.

Mr Skvortsov and his wife were arrested in a dramatic special forces dawn raid in November 2022, as helicopters hovered over their home in Nacka near Stockholm. She was released without charge.

From the moment of his arrest during that police raid, Mr Skvortsov had been completely open about his work, his lawyer said, adding that it was completely legal and above board.

“He had good explanations and could show them papers and documents for his defence. We have give them a lot of documents,” Ms Borg told the BBC.

Much of the case was held behind closed doors, and an FBI official gave evidence during the trial.

Mr Skvortsov was held for 11 months but released from custody earlier this month, before his acquittal.

In a statement in Swedish, Judge Jakob Hedenmo said the accused had acted largely as Mr Olin had alleged, and that advanced technology had been delivered to Russia by circumventing export rules and sanctions.

But he ruled that nothing had emerged from the case to suggest that his activity was aimed at “obtaining information that could constitute espionage”.

The main question was whether his actions had been aimed at committing espionage and that had not been proven, the judge said.

Sweden has been shaken by several spying cases in recent months and Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson said during the summer that it was in “the most serious security situation” since World War Two, with “states and state-like actors… actively exploiting the situation”.

Sweden applied to join Nato after Russia launched its full-scale war in Ukraine in 2022. Only this week, Turkey’s president submitted a bill to ratify its bid, leaving only Hungary remaining to approve it.

Last week a married couple in their mid-50s were arrested on suspicion of processing classified information.

The woman in detention had been working as an intelligence officer in the Swedish military’s FRA signals intelligence unit. During the 1990s, she graduated from Sweden’s defence interpreter school and took part in an armed forces’ trip to Moscow.

Her husband is a long-serving and high-ranking military officer who had once served in Sweden’s MUST military intelligence service and denies the allegations.__bbc.com