Spies blow £½m on a James Bond themed party


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The Independent Online

The Swedish intelligence service's James Bond-themed spy party contained all the ingredients 007 himself would approve of: martinis (shaken, not stirred), casino tables, a gala dinner and special guests – including the head of the UK's MI5 security agency, Jonathan Evans.

However, it has emerged that the lavish event cost 5.3m Swedish krona (£508,000) and Sapo, Sweden's official government-run police intelligence service, is struggling to explain the expense, especially as the party took place after stringent budget cuts within the organisation.

"This was a unique and extraordinary time," General Anders Thornberg, the head of Sapo, told Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper in an interview published yesterday.

Referring to the unprecedented terrorist threats and attacks targeting Sweden in the years before the party, he added: "We thought that we needed a special gathering for the whole security police team."

Islamic extremist groups were suspected of plotting against Sweden in 2010; one man was killed and two were injured in a suicide bombing in Stockholm in December that year. "We'd been subjected to extreme pressure," General Thornberg insisted. Revelations about last summer's party have raised embarrassing questions about Sapo's spending habits.

Critics have pointed out that the intelligence agency was in breach of Sweden's public spending rules because it failed to invite competitive bids for the funding of the event. Sapo has come under particular scrutiny because its reorganisation had been specifically designed to reduce costs to the taxpayer.

General Thornberg conceded Sapo had compounded its misconduct by wrongly demanding VAT refunds worth up to £96,000 after the party. The mistake was noticed by Sweden's National Audit office in February.

The event is the latest in a series of scandals in Sweden. The Federation of Strategic Research was found to have spent one million krona (£96,000) of research funds on a party to celebrate its 15th birthday.