Iran-born brothers charged in Sweden with spying for Russia

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — Two Iranian-born brothers were charged in Sweden with aggravated espionage for allegedly spying for Russia for around a decade, prosecutors said Friday. One of them men worked for Sweden's domestic intelligence agency.

Authorities identified them as Peyman Kia, 42, and Payam Kia, 35. One of the men was also indicted for the alleged gross unauthorized handling of secret information. It wasn't immediately clear which of the brothers it was.

“It has been a complex investigation concerning a crime that is very difficult to investigate and the suspicion concerns very serious criminality directed against Sweden’s intelligence and security system," National Security Unit chief prosecutor Per Lindqvist said.

"The information that has been obtained, transmitted and divulged could, by the fact that if it comes into the hands of a foreign power, result in detriment to Sweden’s security,” Lindqvist said in a statement.

According to the charge sheet obtained by The Associated Press, the men have “jointly” passed information to the Russian military intelligence service GRU during the period Sept. 28, 2011-Sept. 20, 2021.

It added that the data were acquired through one of the men’s work within Sweden's domestic intelligence agency and the country's armed forces. The data originates from several authorities within the Swedish security and the intelligence service.

His brother helped with the contacts with “Russia and the GRU including matters of surrender of information and receipt of compensation.”

The case has been investigated by Sweden’ domestic security service, SAPO. Sweden’s prosecution authority said much of the information in the preliminary investigation is secret and could not offer details.

Peyman Kia worked for the domestic security service, SAPO, and for the foreign defense intelligence agency, MUST, Swedish media said. He reportedly has worked with a top secret unit under MUST which was dealing with Swedish spies abroad, local media said. He later worked for Swedish Customs.

The brothers became Swedish citizens in 1994, and the Expressen daily quoted one of the men as saying that he speaks Persian fluently. The younger brother, reportedly has worked for SAPO, Swedish media reported..

They were arrested in September and November 2021. Both have denied any wrongdoing, Swedish media reported. The brothers face up to life imprisonment if convicted. A life sentence in Sweden generally means a minimum of 20-25 years in prison.

Jan M. Olsen, The Associated Press