This is the first of GRC’s briefs reporting on the legal proceedings taking place in the Stockholm District Court and their implications for corporate accountability. Whereas future briefs are likely to be more concise and deal with specific topics, this post will attempt to provide an overview of the case and summarise the most important legal developments in the first week of the trial.

On 5 September 2023, the criminal trial against corporate executives Ian H. Lundin and Alex Schneiter, the Chairman and CEO respectively of oil and gas exploration and production company Lundin Energy, began before the Stockholm District Court.

In a case that spans over a decade of investigation, the trial of Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter is poised to make legal history. Lundin and Schneiter stand accused of aiding and abetting crimes against ‘the law of nations’ between 1997 and 2003 in connection to the oil company Sudan Ltd, a subsidiary of the parent company Lundin Oil and later Lundin Petroleum AB (now named Orrön Energy). The trial, held in Sweden, not only confronts issues of corporate liability but also navigates the complex waters of international accountability, notably through the principle of universal jurisdiction. Scheduled to be completed in May of 2026, the trial is set to be the longest court case that has ever been tried in Sweden.

Even before the trial began, the case had gone to the Swedish Supreme Court over the issue of universal jurisdiction. Alexandre Schneiter, a Swiss national residing in Switzerland, is charged on the basis of universal jurisdiction, which allows the state to prosecute a foreign national for crimes committed outside of Sweden. The legality of the prosecutor’s use of this jurisdiction was unsuccessfully challenged by Schneiter’s defence team before the Swedish Supreme Court. In a historic decision, the Supreme Court allowed the Swedish Courts to try Schneiter based on universal jurisdiction. The Supreme Court iterated that it was the connection between Schneiter and Ian Lundin, as well as between Schneiter and Orrön Energy, that amounted to a sufficiently ‘tangible and justified cause’ for the case to be tried in Sweden. According to Professor Mark Klamberg of Stockholm University, speaking on the Pax Podcast ‘Unpaid debt – Lundin War Crimes Trial’, this is the first time a case of individual criminal liability for a corporate executive has been brought in the Swedish courts based on universal jurisdiction.

Throughout the trial, the prosecutor will try to prove that Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter, through their crucial influence over the operations of Sudan Ltd.’s activities in Sudan, created the possibility for the war crimes committed in Block 5A. There is no claim that Lundin or Schneiter gave any direct orders for a crime to be committed; instead the indictment claims that on eleven specific occasions the Sudanese government was requested to, or was informed of the need, to take actions in order to enable the continued operations of Sudan Ltd, and that Lundin and Schneiter, independently or collaboratively, knew of the risk (or were indifferent to it) and thus were complicit in the possibility that their actions would result in war crimes being committed. In the opening session of the trial the prosecution also outlined a concept they called a “ladder of complicity,” through which the accused are alleged to have become increasingly complicit with each of the eleven outlined actions/events ensuring that their contribution to the crimes objectively increased. If the prosecution is successful, Lundin and Schneiter face up to 10 years or life in prison. (Chapter 22, Section 6 of the Swedish Penal Code in its wording prior to 1 July 2009).

The mental mode of intent that is being alleged by the prosecution is that of reckless intent. Reckless intent in Swedish law is defined as follows: the perpetrator has been aware of the risk of the outcome/circumstance and has also been indifferent to the occurrence of the outcome or to the existence of a circumstance ( As stated by the Swedish Supreme Court in NJA 2004 s 176: “To establish intent for the result or circumstance, indifference is required not only towards the risk but also towards the realization of the effect or the occurrence of the circumstance.” According to the above definition, what needs to be proved by the prosecution is that Lundin and/or Schneiter were indifferent to the risk and the realization of the risk that the Sudanese military and its allied militia groups might commit war crimes to create the possibility for Sudan Ltd. to continue carrying out its oil related activities in Sudan.

Within the scope of the same indictment, Orrön Energy are accused of having profited from crimes committed within their operations. As such, a record amount of 2.3813 billion SEK is being requested to be forfeited from Orrön Energy for profits derived from criminal activity. The prosecution has further requested the court to impose a company fine of 3 million SEK for the crimes committed in the company’s business operations in Sudan. The prosecution asserted that the representatives of the company did not do what could have been reasonably expected of them to prevent criminal activity.

The outcome of the trial against Orrön Energy is however directly contingent upon the outcome of the trials against Lundin and Schneiter; Orrön is meant to have profited from crimes committed within the scope of its business operations in Sudan. Hence the advocates of Orrön Energy argue that no crime was committed by Lundin or Schneiter or anyone else in the organisation, as well as the structural argument that they did not profit from the crimes committed because it was their subsidiary, not Orrön, that collected the earnings when the interests in Block 5A were sold to Petronas. They also argue that it would seem incoherent that they should be punished for crimes committed in 1999-2003 by a subsidiary of theirs, when the parent company in and of itself was not founded until 2001.

Lundin, Schneiter and Orrön Energy have separate defence teams. However, the defence arguments are much alike. The accused deny all charges and have in their responses to the indictment disputed almost all the material circumstances as have been outlined by the prosecution. The accused have most notably dissented from the prosecutions characterization of the conflicts that were ongoing in the geographical south of Sudan, as well as from the prosecution’s core allegation that large parts of Block 5A needed to be evacuated or cleared of its population for the Lundin concern to complete their work in the area. On the contrary, the defence teams emphasised the need for collaboration with the local communities and the public benefit hat the operations of the Lundin Concern brought to the area. Furthermore, all the indicted parties refute claims brought forward by NGOs Human Rights Watch and Christian Aid as factually incorrect. The accused have cited reports by other actors such as the Swedish foreign ministry as well as reports commissioned by their own organization to contradict these reports.

Apart from the arguments concerning the facts of the crimes, the defence of both Lundin and Schneiter argued that their respective clients lacked crucial influence over the operations in Sudan. It is essential to note that all operations undertaken by the Lundin Concern in Sudan were carried out through a subsidiary: Sudan Ltd. Sudan Ltd was the operating company carrying out day to day activities of the Consortium; the Consortium was a larger organisation which owned the oil concessions in Block 5A. The Consortium was composed of Lundin Oil through its subsidiary Sudan Ltd with 40.375% ownership, Petronas with 28.5% ownership (Malaysia), OMV with 26.125% ownership (Austria) and Sudapet with 5% ownership (Sudan). While Schneiter’s defence team pointed to his very specifically technical role in Sudan Ltd as a circumstance which directly inhibited his executive influence over the project, Lundins’ defence team argued from a different angle. Among other arguments aimed at limiting the appearance of Lundin’s executive influence, his defence team outlined the general structure of the project in Sudan, stating that no such actions as the ones described by the prosecution would have been possible by him or Schneiter alone or together; activities such as the ones outlined in the indictment would require the support of the Consortium. Furthermore, the defence of Lundin and Schneiter denied all forms of intent, and along with the defence team of Orrön Energy they claimed a lack of causality between the actions of Schneiter and Lundin and the war crimes committed by the Sudanese military and its allied militia groups.

Although as with any long and complex trial spanning hundreds of facts and complex law the outcome remains uncertain, with a prosecution based on facts alleged to constitute a “ladder of complicity’ and an reckless intent threshold for responsibility, the accused, undoubtedly, face an uphill battle to exonerate themselves. Whether this is possible or not, the case – and GRC’s blogs – promise to provide a ringside seat to those interested in the intricate interplay of international and national criminal law principles, where corporate responsibility begins and ends, and the pursuit of justice for terrible crimes that occurred in then – Sudan between 1997 and 2003.

Benjamin Nord
Intern at Global Rights Compliance