Russia’s espionage in Sweden: two brothers sentenced

In Sweden two men are due espionage sentenced to long prison terms for Russia’s GRU military intelligence service. A court in Stockholm on Thursday sentenced brothers Peyman and Payam Kia to life imprisonment and nine years and ten months, respectively, for illegally obtaining secret information and transmitting it to Russia.

Julian Staib

Political correspondent for northern Germany and Scandinavia based in Hamburg.

The court saw it as proven that the older brother, who received a life sentence for serious espionage, among other things, passed on more than 100 documents from the Swedish security and secret services to Russia. He held different positions in Sweden Domestic Intelligence Service (Säpo), in Sweden’s military and at the Swedish Military Intelligence Service (Must). According to the court, he had received the documents as part of his activities there.

The younger brother’s involvement in the criminal offense was estimated to be significantly lower because he was not involved in gathering the information. According to the court, however, he was involved in the planning and maintained contacts Russia and took care of handing over the information and receiving the money.

With the verdicts, the court largely followed the requests of the public prosecutor. This had demanded a life sentence or imprisonment of 13 years. The defense had pleaded for acquittal. According to prosecutors, the brothers, who were born in Iran, spied for Russia from 2011 until their arrest in autumn 2021. They had denied the allegations.

Espionage was for enrichment only

It is not known which documents were passed on. Most of the prosecution’s written evidence, as well as many of the subjects covered by testimonies, were top secret; much of the trial was private; parts of the verdict were also secret. But a court spokesman on Thursday spoke of documents relating to the security and intelligence services that concerned matters of “great importance”.

According to the court, the evidence was based on an investigation by Sweden’s domestic intelligence service (Sapö) that a person within the agency leaked information to the GRU and Peyman kia was the most likely author. Evidence such as computers and USB sticks were also found on the brothers, on which traces of the secret information were found despite encryption software.

According to the court, the espionage was for enrichment. That was the only purpose, so no mitigating circumstances could be invoked. According to the court, the older brother had been handling large amounts of cash at the time of the crime, and he had also transferred large amounts to relatives.

The head of the Swedish domestic intelligence service (Säpo), Charlotte von Essen, recently warned that Russia is expanding its intelligence activities against Sweden. Sweden has applied for NATO membership as a result of the Russian war of aggression. Recently, further cases of alleged espionage for Russia had become public in Scandinavia.

In November, for example, a couple who had once immigrated from Russia and allegedly passed classified commercial information to Russian military intelligence were arrested in a Stockholm suburb. In Norway, a man was arrested in October who teaches at a university and is suspected of being a Russian intelligence agent and living in the country under a false identity.

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