Foreign minister and Lundin Petroleum

Lundin CEO: "Bildt was involved in the discussions"

As the trial of two Swedish journalists continues in Ethiopia, criticism and media scrutiny of Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is increasing. Now the current CEO of Lundin Petroleum, Ashley Heppenstal, tells Swedish Radio News that Bildt was involved in the discussions, and in his words "certaintly aware of the Ethiopian investment."

The two journalists were in the oil-rich and conflict-torn area of Ogaden in Ethiopia, investigating the role of oil company Lundin Petroleum there, when they were arrested back in July. Bildt sat on the board of Lundin until October 2006, before becoming Sweden’s foreign minister.

Bildt has claimed that Lundin Petroleum was not involved in Ethiopia when he sat on the board. An investigation by Swedish Radio News, however, reveals that Lundin was indeed active in Ethiopia when Bildt was a board member.

In 2005, the oil company carried out a corporate social responsibility (CSR) study in the Ogaden region, looking at, amongst other things, the environment, security and human rights. After the CSR study, Lundin continued negotiations to receive the rights to find and drill for oil in Ethiopia. This led to an agreement in November 2006, but the decision to invest was made by the board earlier than this. It is unclear, though, exactly when the decision was made and how much Bildt knew, reports Swedish Radio News.

“I don’t know exactly when the decision was made,” said Bildt to Swedish Radio. “But we of course discussed a range of different countries. Bear in mind that the board is not involved in all the day to day dealings; it meets now and again and has the final word on decisions.”