FECL 47 (October 1996):

PALME MURDER: THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTION AND THE SWEDISH POLICE LINK

In late September, a former chief of a covert South African hit squad said that members of the apartheid regime’s secret service had been involved in the 1986 assassination of Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. In Sweden these allegations revived long-standing theories linking Palme’s murder to elements of the Swedish police and military which have ties to extreme-right international networks. Prominent critics claim the "police link" has never been seriously checked by the 'Palme Group' (the police panel that is investigating the murder). The question is whether Sweden’s political establishment is really interested in finding a truth that could be hard to bear for a country that tends to regard itself as the best of democracies.

 

The South African connection

Former police colonel Eugene de Kock is a professional killer. In the 1980s, he was the chief of the Vlakplaas "police training centre" - in fact a torture centre and the base for the apartheid regime’s most ruthless death squad operations. A South African court recently convicted de Kock of a string of cold-blooded murders and other atrocities. De Kock is believed to have made the allegations about the Palme murder in order to obtain a sentence reduction. De Kock said another secret service officer of the apartheid era, Craig Williamson, had masterminded the assassination of Palme. De Kock’s allegations triggered a flood of revelations and mutual denunciations in the ranks of the former South African security forces.

 

Operation "Long Reach"

It gradually emerged that Williamson had been the chief of operation "Long Reach". Officially, "Long Reach Ltd" was a private company offering security advice to foreign governments. In fact, it was set up by South African intelligence as a front for dirty tricks operations against opponents of apartheid, both in South Africa and abroad. It was also involved in arms trafficking.

 

Bloody campaign of desperate Apartheid hard-liners

In the early 1980s, South Africa was becoming increasingly isolated. The UN boycott measures were beginning to seriously affect the country’s economy. The regime was becoming desperate and the most hard-line advocates of apartheid resorted to a new strategy. The objective was to paralyse the ANC by physically eliminating as many as possible of its leaders and prominent foreign supporters, while at the same time appeasing a presumed majority of the South African people by making some minor reforms. Consequently, South African hit squads sharply increased their activities abroad:

- In 1982, a burglary occurred at the office of the Pan African Congress in London. Two suspects were arrested. One of them, the Swede Bertil Wedin, was eventually acquitted by a British court. Wedin however admitted that he was working for South African intelligence - in particular for Craig Williamson.

- The same year, Ruth First, a close friend of Olof Palme and the wife of the South African Communist leader, Joe Slovo, was murdered in Mozambique, on the orders of Craig Williamson.

- Also in 1982, a bomb exploded in the ANC’s London Office. The attack was an attempt to kill the then ANC President, Oliver Tambo, who had planned to attend a meeting in the office, but was unexpectedly prevented from coming. The same day, the Swede Wedin and another of Williamson’s men, Peter Casselton, hastily left London for Cyprus.

- In 1986 (the year of the Palme murder), the ANC office in Stockholm was blown up. The perpetrators were never found.

- In 1987 plans for "kidnapping" the entire ANC leadership during a meeting in London were uncovered. The thwarted operation was generally attributed to South African intelligence. Two Norwegians with a mercenary background and a British national were initially arrested but never charged - a fact that at that time gave rise to public suspicions of a possible involvement of British intelligence.

- In 1988, the ANC representative in Brussels narrowly escaped an assassination attempt.

- The same year, ANC representative Dulcie September was assassinated in Paris in front of her office. It later emerged that the killers were former French legionnaires hired in Belgium by the South African secret service.

 

Craig Williamson infiltrated Swedish anti-apartheid agency

In the 1970s, Craig Williamson, posing as a South African student opposed to apartheid, managed to get himself employed by the International University Exchange Fund (IUEF) in Geneva. The real purpose of this organisation, set up by the Swedish Social Democrats, was actually to channel secret Swedish financial assistance to the anti-apartheid movement, in particular to the ANC. In the Palme era, Sweden was the only Western country providing generous support to the ANC and Palme was an outspoken enemy of the Apartheid regime. In 1980, it came to light that Williamson was spying for the South African secret service and had managed to divert considerable sums destined for anti-apartheid groups to none other than the hit squads of the South African secret service. Through his infiltration of IUEF Williamson acquired excellent insider knowledge of Swedish politics and, above all, of some of Palme’s closest collaborators. He must also have understood Palme’s instrumental role in the fight against South African apartheid.

 

 

The Swedish connection

In Sweden, speculation about possible involvement of extreme-right circles within the police and the military in Palme’s murder have flourished for ten years. The recent allegations made by a number of former members of the South African secret services have given rise to new questions in Sweden about this "police link". The number of hints pointing in this direction is alarming.

 

Astounding account of a police officer: the police are concealing the truth

Chief police superintendent Gösta Söderström should be considered a key witness. He was the police officer in charge at the murder site in the night of 28 February 1986, when Palme was shot. His startling version of that night’s events was recently recalled in an article in Sweden’s largest morning newspaper, Dagens Nyheter. Söderström says no less than that the police co-ordination headquarters are lying about what really happened the night of the assassination. It is not true, says Söderström, that the police came close to catching the assassin. Instead, a number of policemen were seen running around on the killer’s escape route when Söderström and his men arrived on the site with considerable delay. "They helped him to escape", the superintendent bluntly claims. Only 7-8 minutes later did they come back and report to Söderström. Söderström is also convinced that what should have been a general police alarm was actually a "selective" alarm, directed to a limited number of hand-picked police cars. The general alarm was massively and crucially delayed. "Several policemen are lying and concealing facts", says Söderström.

Two committees inquiring into the Palme murder have found that the general alarm was not delayed and that superintendent Söderström must have "mistaken times". They have, however, omitted to comment on the fact that Söderström’s driver noted exactly the same times in his own journal. It is also difficult to see how the committees of inquiry could reach their conclusions without access to evidence that would have been instrumental in establishing the truth.

The radio and telecommunication traffic of both the police command headquarters and the SOS-alarm headquarters are always tape-recorded in Sweden. Remarkably, the two tape-recordings of the night of the Palme murder, have never been disclosed. Following insistent requests from various quarters, the responsible authorities claimed alternately that the tapes had "disappeared", been "found again", or simply "burnt in accordance with regulations in force and general practice". Even the hand-written original of the police diary seems to have mysteriously vanished. The 'Palme Group' (the police panel investigating the murder) got only an edited machine-typed version - "a forgery", according to superintendent Söderström.

 

Friends of apartheid in the Swedish police

It is established that several Swedish police officers travelled to South Africa shortly before and after Palme’s assassination. The police officers were all members of the International Police Association (IPA). The Palme Group has received hints that South African police officers, and in particular, Craig Williamson, also stayed in Stockholm around the time of the assassination, and that they were accommodated in a guest apartment owned by IPA Sweden. The mutual visits took place at a time when most international organisations and in particular national police agencies were officially boycotting South Africa.

Astonishingly, the Palme Group did not find it necessary to check the guest books of the Swedish and South African IPA guest houses. Investigative journalists, who very belatedly (in October 1996) tried to do so, discovered that the guest books of the relevant years around Palme’s murder had "been lost", both in Sweden and South Africa.

The Palme Group also received hints very early on from various quarters that the IPA had secret premises in a building close to the site of Palme’s murder. According to informers, a stock of firearms was kept in the premises. Only years later did the Palme Group check these hints. It discovered that the building was owned by a right-wing Estonian exile organisation which had let premises to a number of secretive organisations, all known for their hatred of Palme. Thus, according to a police memorandum, it was "almost certain" that the notorious World Anti-Communist League (WAcl) had premises in the building, and "not impossible" that the IPA had too. Eventually, a Stockholm policeman also remembered a mysterious burglary, in which firearms (and nothing else) had been stolen from the building in question.

 

Swedish WACL member teaches at Stockholm police academy

In the 80s, professor of psychology Åke Ek was the Swedish WACL representative. Ek was teaching at the Stockholm police academy (Polishögskolan). He also led a highly secretive organisation of veterans of the Swedish UN forces, mercenaries and police. Mr Ek recently bluntly refused to answer any questions from Swedish TV journalists on the objectives and the members of his organisation. Mr Ek is just as taciturn about another organisation he presided over in the 1980s - the "Sweden-South Africa association".

Such alarming information did, however, not lead to any action by the Palme Group. Thus, an identified group of policemen with far-right views were never seriously questioned, let alone asked to testify under oath, about their travels to South Africa, IPA, WACL , and another obscure far-right organisation, the so-called "European Workers Party" (EWP: the European branch of a US-based cult-like organisation founded by Lyndon LaRouche, with contacts inside a number of Western secret services). This is all the more astonishing, considering the remarkable profiles of some of these policemen:

- Policeman A He was first to arrive at the site when Palme was assassinated. According to his own statement, he tried to run after the assassin, but gave up because he suddenly became tired.

- Policeman B is known for calling Palme a "traitor" and a "Soviet spy";

- Policeman C is a notorious and declared Palme enemy;

- Policeman D owned an apartment in the street where Palme’s assassin disappeared. The police eventually searched his home and, among other things, found old German Nazi insignia, as well as a large stock of walkie-talkies.

- Policemen E is a former paratrooper with the Swedish UN forces. He repeatedly visited South Africa together with a young Swedish businessman and outspoken Nazi. Both men had frequent contacts with the Swedish branch of the "European Workers Party".

- Former policeman Östling, a friend of D, is an arms dealer with extreme-right views. His associate visited South Africa shortly before Palme’s assassination. At a police search in the two arms dealers’ business premises, documents were found proving that Östling and his partner were doing business with the South African legation in Stockholm and a number of South African firms. Remarkably, Östling became a major supplier to the Stockholm police after the Palme murder.

Östling and his associate had a private rifle club. Among the other club members were:

- the police officer who happened to be on duty at the police co-ordination headquarters the very day of the Palme murder, when nothing seemed to work and the general police alarm was inexplicably delayed; and .

- a policeman who became a body guard for the Palme Group’s first chief, Hans Holmér, together with other friends of arms dealer Östling.

Some of these policemen also had contacts with "Stay behind", the Swedish branch of the secret NATO organisation "Gladio". There are reasons to believe that Mr Ek’s veterans’ organisation was closely related to, if not identical with, "Stay behind".

 

Bertil Wedin: contacts with SÄPO, South Africa, and the Turkish secret service

A number of sources within the former South African secret services are now pointing out Bertil Wedin, the Swede who worked for Craig Williamson in London, as the man who actually shot Palme.

Mr Wedin has a remarkable profile: He is a notorious right-wing extremist and professional soldier with a past as a Congo mercenary and an officer of the Swedish Army. He also worked as an informer for SÄPO (the Swedish state security police) in the 1970. In the 1980s, Wedin was recruited by the South African secret services and was eventually stationed in London as one of Craig Williamson’s men in the "Long Reach" operation. Since 1985 Wedin has lived in the Turkish part of Cyprus. He has worked for, among others the Turkish Ministry of Information and is said to have excellent contacts with the Turkish secret service MIT. Last, not least, Wedin is also a member of WAcl.

 

The missing link between Sweden and South Africa?

In recent weeks, attention has focused on Wedin in connection with old and new evidence of a South African link in the Palme murder. Only ten days before the murder, an acquaintance of Wedin, Anders Larsson, warned the Swedish Foreign Ministry that circles within the police and SÄPO were planning the assassination of the Prime Minister before his planned visit to Moscow. Larsson said he had got the information from a "friend with good contacts within SÄPO".

As early as 1986 and 1987, Swedish authorities received information from several distinct sources suggesting a South African involvement in the Palme assassination. In one case, the information came from a trustworthy Swedish journalist who was referring to an officer of the British intelligence service, MI6. According to this source, Palme’s assassination was planned by the South African secret service with the assistance of a Swede working for SÄPO. The journalist immediately tape-recorded a memorandum and sent the tape to SÄPO. But SÄPO did not listen to him, nor did they forward the tape to the Palme Group. Only when new evidence of a South African connection emerged in 1994 - i.e. eight years later - did the Palme Group finally interrogate the journalist. As for the tape recording, it "got lost", according to SÄPO. Whereupon the Palme Group reached the conclusion that the journalist’s account "lacked substance" since his information could not be linked to the site of the murder.

In the light of the above, a thorough inquiry into Bertil Wedin’s various activities is evidently necessary. ANC experts on former South African hit squad activities believe that Wedin had too high a profile in his home country, Sweden, to actually "pull the trigger" himself. But he could well have served as an instrumental local link in a plot comprising the South African secret services and, perhaps, other international extreme right networks.

 

 

Some preliminary conclusions

Was Palme killed by a South African death squad? For the time being, their is no substantial evidence linking South Africans to the murder site, and the man who actually pulled the trigger has still not been identified. Moreover, the recent allegations by Eugene de Kock and other professional killers must be considered highly unreliable on their own merits. But in view of a multitude of hints since 1986, pointing to South Africa, they must be taken seriously. It remains to be proven whether South African secret service actually planned and/or carried out the assassination of Olof Palme. But in view of the comprehensive information now at hand on the strategic objectives, the organisational structure and the international networking of the former South African secret service, their involvement in some way or another now must be regarded as very likely.

Similar conclusions suggest themselves with regard to the so-called "police link" in Sweden. While we are far from any proof of an involvement of circles within the Swedish police in the murder of the Social Democrat leader, it is an established fact that a troubling number of Swedish police officers were - and partly still are - moving in fascist and racist organisations with links to the South African Apartheid regime.

WACL , IPA, LaRouche’s EWP and "Stay Behind" (Gladio) were part of an international extreme-right network that was particularly aggressive in the 1980s, at the climax of the Cold War. It is established that not only the South African government and a number of anti-Communist regimes in Third World countries, but also the US government in the Reagan era did not shy from using this private mercenary network for gathering intelligence and carrying out dirty tricks operations that would have compromised the official state security apparatus.

One would have expected that the very number of alarming items of evidence of extreme-right infiltration of the Swedish police would lead to an immediate and thorough investigation by the Palme Group and other state bodies dealing with the Palme murder. But again and again, the investigators summarily rejected information as too unsubstantiated as to justify further inquiries. It seems that the Palme Group gradually completely restricted its investigation to the search for the person who actually shot Palme. Consequently, it brushed aside any information which could not be directly linked to the site of the murder or the murder weapon. Possibly instrumental witnesses were heard years later, if at all, and important pieces of evidence had mysteriously disappeared, when the Palme Group belatedly condescended to check them.

Commenting on the South African connections of Swedish policemen, the renowned jurist and journalist Jesus Alcalá stressed in Dagens Nyheter: "There is, indeed, a South African link, even if South African security was not actively involved in the murder". And Lars Borgnäs, a TV-journalist who has investigated the "police link" for many years, recently compared the numerous elements of information suggesting a conspiracy of Swedish police, the South African secret services and an international extreme-right network with pieces of a puzzle. The problem, says Borgnäs, is that the Palme Group never even attempted to put the pieces together.

Indeed, it is hard to understand, why the policemen concerned were never cross-examined regarding the motives of their journeys to South Africa, their relations with IPA, WACL , "Stay behind" and LaRouche’s EWP. And why was police superintendent Söderström never asked to repeat his very grave accusations against the police under oath before a court? Why did a committee of inquiry set up by the Government qualify the almost scandalous disappearance of not only one, but several very sensitive tape-recordings as just an "excusable" blunder? Why was the secretive Mr Ek never subjected to cross-examination?

The long list of unexplainable omissions in the investigation of the Palme murder raises the question whether we are not dealing with a case of obstruction rather than with professional incompetence. Be it as it may, public confidence in the authorities’ willingness to find the truth about the murder has dropped to freezing-point. The attempts of the government to re-establish public confidence in the investigation by setting up three committees of inquiry has had the opposite effect. None of the committees proved able or willing to conduct its own investigation. Instead, they chose to rely on selected information provided by the Palme Group.

As late as August, Social Democrat politician Sigvard Marjasin resigned from the presidency of the third committee of inquiry after being accused of fraud in his function as a county governor and amongst harsh criticism from Hans-Gunnar Axberger, a professor of law and member of the committee. Axberger accused Marjasin of "censorship" by his denying committee members access to sensitive records referring to the police trace.

This latest in a long series of public disputes over the Palme investigation is likely to further fuel a widespread feeling among the Swedish public, that no matter whether South African and/or Swedish police and security circles were actually involved in the murder of Olof Palme or not, neither the authorities in charge of the investigation nor the political establishment are interested in establishing a truth that could prove too hard to bear for a country that tends to regard itself as the world’s most perfect democracy. As Carl Lidbom, Sweden’s former ambassador in Paris and influential senior Social Democrat once put it: "It would be best for all parties if the murder of Olof Palme was never solved."

 

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, 9.10.96, 10.10.96, 12.10.96, 15.10.96; Swedish Television SVT 2: ’Striptease’ 9.10.96; Aftonbladet, 29.9.96; Svenska Dagbladet, 27.9.96, 7.10.96; our sources.