A Swedish man who left school without even completing the equivalent of A-levels managed to bluff his way to a senior position in the country’s armed forces over an 18-year career.
The man last summer joined Sweden’s UN peacekeeping force in Mali as Chief of Staff, a position carrying the rank of Major, serving for several months before finally being discovered.
According to the Dagens Nyheter newspaper, the man had forged certificates showing that he had passed the Swedish Army Forces’ officer training programme, and also falsely claimed to have a politics degree, A-level equivalents, and a driving license.
“This is serious, to say the least,” General Micael Bydén, supreme commander of the Swedish armed forces, told the newspaper after the story broke on Monday. “We have taken action and the man’s employment has been ended.”
Gen Bydén admitted that the armed forces had been informed 12 months previously by the Swedish Coast Guard that the man had lied about his educational qualifications.
But he explained that since the man had not been working for the Armed Forces at the time that the report was received, the information had not been acted on. It was not then picked up after he had begun his posting in Mali.
“When the person came into focus later in the year as part of his service in Mali, then our system began ringing and warning us,” Gen Bydén said.
According to Dagens Nyheter, the man had built an 18-year career on false qualifications, serving stints in Afghanistan and Kosovo when he enjoyed a high level of security clearance.
The man seems to have begun lying after dropping out of an officer training programme in 1999 “at his own request”.
Instead of leaving the Armed Forces, though, he somehow obtained a forged officer exam certificate and began rising up the ranks.
He served as a Major in Afghanistan, a rank which according to Dagens Nyheter normally requires the holder to complete a course at the Swedish Defence University, something the man somehow avoided.
He was first caught in 2018 when the Swedish Coast Guard double-checked his qualifications after he had already worked there, discovering that he had lied about his politics degree and driving certificate.
“It was simply out of a misguided ambition to increase my chances of getting the job,” the man told DN at the time. “Why does anyone spice up their CV?”.
Gen Bydén and Petter Hultqvist, Sweden’s defence minister, have both been called in front of the Swedish Parliament’s Committee on Defence to explain how the man could have risen so high without being discovered.