Two brothers of Iranian origin were arrested last week for providing classified information to Kremlin intelligence services. Experts say that the documents delivered could put the security of the Nordic country at risk
Peyman Kia and Payam Kia (Twitter)
Last week, a dramatic spying case rocked Sweden, when two brothers of Iranian originthey were charged with providing confidential information to Russia for ten years. One of them worked as a Swedish intelligence officer.
“The information that was obtained, transmitted and disclosed (…) could harm the security of Sweden, if it falls into the hands of a foreign power,” said the prosecutor in charge of national security issues, Per Lindqvist, in a statement.
The defendants, aged 42 and 35 respectively , were identified as Peyman Kia and Payam Kia. They were arrested in September and November 2021, accused of spying for a foreign power, and are in pretrial detention.
The eldest of the brothers, Peyman, held various positions of responsibility in the Swedish intelligence services Säpo and in the army.
A general view shows the headquarters of the Main Directorate of the General Staff of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, formerly known as the Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU), in Moscow, Russia October 4, 2018. REUTERS /File
The two men are suspected of supplying the Russian intelligence agency GRU classified information for a decade, starting in 2011. If convicted they risk life in prison.
According to According to Foreign Policy columnist Elisabeth Braw columnist, Peyman Kia came to Sweden with his family in the 1980s after fleeing Iran. In 1994 he obtained Swedish nationality, like his brother. He studied a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at Uppsala University and then got a job as an investigative officer at Swedish customs.
Just a few months later, the Swedish Security Service (SÄPO) offered him a job. In February 2011, he joined the Swedish military intelligence service MUST, which also handles foreign intelligence.
While serving as a MUST agent , the Russian intelligence services offered him to be a spy for the Kremlin. The Iranian-born accepted and at the same time continued to work at MUST in a new post at SÄPO, and even as head of security at the Swedish Food Agency. Then his younger sister would also end up joining the GRU.
Reference image of members of the Swedish forensic police. Stockholm, Sweden October 22, 2021. Henrik Montgomery/TT News Agency via REUTERS/File
Between 2015 and 2016, Swedish intelligence suspected the presence of a “mole” within the services. A year later, spy hunters concluded that it was a Peyman Kia. For four years they followed the brothers closely, not rushing to arrest them until they had solid evidence. Finally, in 2021 the two were imprisoned. Peyman had accessed numerous MUST and SÄPO documents outside his area of responsibility, which he and his brother are believed to have given to a GRU controller, according to Foreign Policy.
Russia rewarded the brothers with gold and dollars. They both exchanged them for Swedish kronor and deposited it into their bank accounts. The frequent use of cash was suspicious, since Sweden is a country that is practically free of physical money and where most use cards. Communications accessed by Swedish intelligence revealed that the spies were planning to escape to Canada.
Peyman kept a large number of classified documents at her home. >. Swedish authorities managed to seize USB flash drives and different electronic equipment since the brothers never suspected that they were being investigated.
Russian President Vladimir Putin shakes hands with Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi during a meeting on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Samarkand, Uzbekistan September 15, 2022. Presidential website of Iran/WANA (West Asian News Agency)/Propaganda via REUTERS/File
“The material believed to have been handed over to the Russians is incredibly sensitive,” he said. Magnus Ranstorp, Strategic Advisor at the Center for Social Security at the Swedish Defense University. “And delivering the SÄPO personnel directory is, in itself, a very serious matter. It's like giving the Russians a list of who to target for recruitment,” he added, according to the Foreign Policy article.
As for the Iran's role in the espionage case, Per Thunholm, an adviser at the Swedish Defense University specializing in intelligence studies, says that “Iran and Russia cooperate” . “Intelligence is a team sport. When it comes to intelligence operations, even the United States has friends, ”he told Foreign Policy .
Brew further gives as an example that when the Iranians broke the CIA's covert communications, they passed that information to China. At the same time, he affirms that members of the Five Eyes, the intelligence alliance made up of Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the United Kingdom and the United States, also share information.