Swedish spy agency under scrutiny over Bond party

Wed Aug 29, 2012 12:08pm EDT
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By Alistair Scrutton

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Revelations that Sweden's spy agency treated itself to a lavish James Bond-themed party have embarrassed the government in a country whose reputation as a model of rectitude has been sullied by a series of public spending scandals.

The party, which included 1,000 guests, casino tables, celebrity entertainers and a tuxedo-clad band playing Bond themes, cost 5.3 million crowns ($800,000), took place in June 2011 during a government austerity drive.

The affair is now dominating newspaper front-pages and television chat shows as well as being the talk of dinner parties and fodder for opposition politicians.

Dagens Nyheter newspaper first broke the story of the Bond party on Monday and has followed up with further juicy details.

It said Sapo, Sweden's spy agency, may have failed to put the event out to tender and claimed too much tax back, just as it faces possible cuts in its budget. The political opposition has called for an investigation.

Sapo chief Anders Thornberg said the agency had been "under pressure" after a sweeping reorganization as well as a suicide bombing in Stockholm by an Islamist militant in December 2010.

"We thought that we needed a special gathering for the whole security police team," Dagens quoted Thornberg as saying.

The Bond party scandal has produced much soul-searching in Sweden about whether the Scandinavian country is jettisoning such values as fairness and efficiency that earned it international respect and helped ensure the popularity of its high tax regime.   Continued...