The long-awaited trial of two former Swedish oil executives accused of complicity in war crimes in present day South Sudan began on Tuesday in Stockholm.
Prosecutors say the former CEO and the former chairman of Lundin Oil, a company that has changed its name several times, were complicit in atrocities carried out by the Sudanese army and allied militias between 1999 and 2003.
In what is expected to be the biggest trial in Swedish history, Alex Schneiter, a Swiss national, and Ian Lundin, who is Swedish, face allegations of “aiding and abetting a serious violation of international law”.
Prosecutors claim the men supported the Sudanese government of former dictator Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted by the International Criminal Court for genocide and other war crimes.
Al-Bashir was toppled in April 2019 in a popular uprising.
Lundin and Schneiter are accused of participating in a deal that involving a right to search for and extract oil in a larger area in southern Sudan “in exchange for the payment of fees and a share in future profits”.
Prosecutors allege they asked Sudan’s military to take charge of security at one of Lundin Oil’s exploration fields in what is now South Sudan, knowing this would mean seizing the area by force.
When Lundin struck oil in the “Block 5A” field in 1999 Sudanese forces then led military operations to take control of the area and create “the necessary preconditions for Lundin Oil’s oil exploration”.
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The security operation resulted in aerial bombings, the killing of civilians and the burning of entire villages, prosecutors added.
Lundin, 62, was chief executive of family firm Lundin Oil, now known as Orron Energy, and Schneiter, 61, was vice president at the time.
The prosecution is also asking the court to confiscate 2.4 billion Swedish crowns (€202 million) from Orron Energy.
Heading into the courtroom, Lundin told reporters that the accusations were “completely false.”
“We look forward to defending ourselves in court,” he said.
The trial, which is expected to run until early 2026, comes on the back of a 10-year investigation launched after a Dutch NGO published a report on the company’s presence in Sudan.
For many years Sudan was torn apart by a civil war between the Muslim-dominated north and Christian south. South Sudan gained independence in 2011 to become the world’s youngest nation.