Iranian-born brothers jailed in Sweden over spying for Russia

Peyman and Payam Kia were sentenced after supplying Russian intelligence with secret files

Two Swedish brothers have been convicted at Stockholm District Court of spying for Russia. AFP
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Two Iranian-born Swedish brothers were on Thursday sentenced to jail after being convicted of spying for Russia and its military intelligence service GRU for a decade.

Peyman Kia, 42, who had worked for Sweden’s domestic intelligence agency and armed forces, was sentenced to life in prison, and Payam Kia, 35, to nine years and 10 months.

“It is placed beyond reasonable doubt that the brothers, together and in consultation, without authorisation and for the benefit of Russia and the GRU, acquired, forwarded and disclosed information” to a foreign power with the purpose of damaging Sweden’s security, Stockholm District Court said in its verdict.

Most of the trial was held behind closed doors with much of the information from the preliminary investigation kept secret.

“The older brother’s espionage falls into the most grave category,” senior judge Mans Wigen said.

“With full knowledge of the damage it would cause, he has obtained, transferred and disclosed information to Russia, which constitutes the largest threat to Sweden’s security.”

The pair, both naturalised Swedes, had been charged with having worked jointly to pass information to Russia between September 28, 2011, and September 20, 2021.

Judge Mans Wigen said the brothers had passed classified information on to Russia. AFP

The Kias obtained about 100 classified documents from Sweden’s security and intelligence service on behalf of the GRU, and those files were accessed by the elder brother while the younger handled contact with Russian agents, the court said.

Prosecutors said the data they gave the Russians originated from several authorities inside the Swedish security and intelligence service, known by its acronym Sapo.

Peyman Kia worked for the armed forces’ foreign defence intelligence agency, known in Sweden by its acronym Must, and with a top-secret unit within the agency that dealt with Swedish spies abroad, it was reported.

He was arrested in September 2021 and his brother in November the same year. Both denied any wrongdoing, their defence lawyers told the court.

Payam Kia helped his brother and “dismantled and broke a hard drive which was later found in a trash can” after his brother was arrested, the charge sheet stated.

The case is believed to be one of most damaging instances of espionage in Sweden’s history, because the brothers had compiled a list of all the employees within Sapo.

A life sentence in Sweden generally means a minimum of 20 to 25 years in prison.

Updated: January 19, 2023, 1:00 PM