The Swedish Prosecution Authority (SPA) has laid criminal charges, including "complicity in grave war crimes", against Lundin Energy chairman Ian Lundin and director Alex Schneiter, related to the company's legacy operations in Sudan.
Lundin Oil was a key player in war-torn Sudan between 1991 and 2003, when it exited Block 5A.
It quit the country fully in 2009, two years before the country split into South Sudan — which holds most of the oil — and Sudan, through which the south's oil is exported.
The SPA said Lundin Oil was active in Sudan when control of oilfields in the country's southern region became a contentious issue in a long-running civil war.
The SPA — which began its probe into the company's Sudan activities in 2010 and has now generated an 80,000-page report — said the two men are "suspected of having been complicit in war crimes committed by the then Sudanese regime with the purpose of securing the company’s oil operations in southern Sudan".
Lundin 'refutes' charges
The Stockhom-listed independent said it "refutes that there are any grounds for allegations of wrongdoing by any of its representatives", stressing that both executives "strongly deny the charges and have the full support of the board in contesting them at trial".
Lundin Energy said in a statement today the charges against its chairman and director refer to periods of operations in Sudan running between 1999-2003 and 2000-2003, respectively.
The charges include claims against Lundin Energy involving a forfeiture of economic benefits of about SKr1.39 billion ($159 million) and a corporate fine of SKr3 million.
This forfeiture represents a gain of SKr720 million the company made when selling its Sudanese business in 2003.
The prosecution said the company was actively exploring Block 5A in Unity State, which eventually became one of the areas worst affected by the war.
Military forces from the south were originally charged with providing security around Lundin Oil's assets when the company started operations in 1997, said the SPA, claiming that a militia group allied to the Khartoum government tried to take control of Block 5A, but failed, although its attacks led to "great suffering" among civilians.
In 1999, the SPA said that Sudan's military, together with the same militia group, led operations to take control of the area and create the necessary conditions for the company to continue its activities, leading to a conflict that was still underway when Lundin Oil quit the block in 2003.
The SPA believes Sudan's government, through its military and the militia allied to the Khartoum regime, carried out a war that conflicts with international humanitarian law and, according to Swedish law, constitutes grave war crimes.
Public prosecutor Henrik Attorps, SPA's head of the Sudan probe, said: ”In our view, the investigation shows the military and its allied militia systematically attacked civilians or carried out indiscriminate attacks. Consequently, many civilians were killed, injured and displaced from Block 5A.”
Chief public prosecutor Krister Petersson, alleged that directly after the military went into Block 5A in May 1999, in breach of a local peace agreement, "Lundin Oil changed its view of who should be responsible for security around the company’s operations", requesting from Sudan's government that its military should undertake this role, "knowing that this meant" the use of "force."
He said: "What constitutes complicity in a criminal sense is that (the company) made these demands despite understanding or... being indifferent to the military and the militia carrying out the war in a way that was forbidden according to international humanitarian law.”
The SPA alleges that Ian Lundin and Schneiter "continued to promote crimes that the (Sudan) military and its allied militia were to commit to enable continued oil operations until March 2003."
The SPA said its evidence is "comprehensive" and centres on civilians who were attacked.
"We will also hear witnesses who followed and studied the situation in Sudan and... met refugees and heard their stories. We will rely on written reports from the area, primarily from the UN and other international organisations as well as from journalists who observed the area”, said public prosecutor Karolina Wieslander.
In terms of support for its allegations of complicity in war crimes, the SPA said this consists of Lundin Oil's internal reporting, its communications with Sudan's government and witnesses connected to the company.
In total, the SPA said it has carried out about 270 interviews with about 150 people.
As a result of these charges, Ian Lundin will not stand for re-election as chairman at Lundin Energy's 2022 annual general meeting, but both he and Schneiter will remain board directors.
Commenting on the charges, Ian Lundin said: “This is an incomprehensible decision by the SPA since it is not supported by any evidence in the investigation, a situation that has not changed for the last 11 years.
"I know that we have done no wrong and that we will ultimately prove this in court."
He was placed under investigation by the SPA in 2016 and interviewed for the first time a year later.
Lundin Energy said it is "extremely concerned about the fairness, reliability and legal basis of the investigation and about the credibility and accuracy" of reports from a non-governmental organisation "that seem to form the basis of the prosecution case."
While the company did not name the NGOs, Amnesty International and Christian Aid have both published reports on the Sudan conflict.
"In the company’s firm opinion," said Lundin Energy, "there is no evidence linking any representative to the alleged primary crimes and this will be fully demonstrated at trial."
The company said it is "firmly convinced" it was a positive force for development in Sudan and operated there "responsibly", as part of an international consortium, and in "full alignment" with the policy of constructive engagement endorsed by the United Nations, European Union and Sweden at the time."
"No legal basis" to fines and forfeitures
Lundin Energy said it will "firmly contest the claims for a corporate fine and forfeiture."
The company said the forfeiture amount is less than announced by the SPA in 2018, and believes "there is no legal basis for any such claim."
Lundin Energy pointed out that the SPA's decision to lay charges is another step in a lengthy legal process that may take "many years" to reach a conclusion.