Report 21: The Last Part of Alexandre Schneiter’s defence’s opening presentation 

Gavel on a dark background

Alexandre Schneiter´s defense completed the final section of its opening presentation this week, which focused on explaining Alexandre Schneiter´s position on the charges of aiding and abetting in point 9k of the indictment. The defense also spent time developing its position on various claims made by the prosecution, specifically addressing the prosecution´s so-called “complicity ladder”. 

The company’s activities during autumn 2002 

The defense began the proceedings by stating that during the uneventful summer of 2002, Alexandre Schneiter was occupied with the acquisition of Coparex International, an asset base acquired which consisted of a portfolio of oil and gas producing fields, and its subsequent integration into the organisation. Consequently, Schneiter was even less involved in Sudan Ltd.’s oil operations in Sudan. Referring to various security reports from autumn 2002, the defense highlighted that they indicated that the escalation of fighting from January 2002 onwards was unrelated to Sudan Ltd.’s operations. 

Additionally, the defense referred to internal communications, such as a late September 2002 email from Ashley Heppenstall, CEO of Lundin Petroleum AB, to representatives of the Sudanese Government (GOS), which suggested that the company’s future operations were contingent upon a peace agreement. They further argued that representatives of Sudan Ltd. had consistently maintained that peace was a precondition of resuming their operations (read more about this here).

The defense then continued to challenge the prosecution´s claim regarding an all-weather road to MOK. Here, they cited a late September 2002 document titled “Comments on MOK all-weather road,” explaining that it was of particular importance as it was prepared by an individual within the company who had thoroughly examined all available information concerning the MOK road. The defense underscored the pivotal nature of this document, emphasising its explicit declaration that Sudan Ltd. had not agreed to undertake either the construction or funding of an all-weather road to MOK. 

Referring to a security report from 13 October 2002, the defense argued that the prosecution had claimed that the report marked the initiation of the events covered by point 9k of the indictment concerning the supplementary agreement. The report indicated that the company was awaiting some kind of response from Geneva on the supplementary agreement regarding an all-weather road to Leer. The defense argued that the prosecution´s assertion, that awaiting response from Geneva must have meant that Ian Lundin and Alexandre Schneiter together would decide whether the agreement should be entered into, was incorrect. According to the defense, the prosecution had claimed that it was an agreement concerning cost recovery, which was a matter typically handled locally in Khartoum. They also asserted that any discussions held in Geneva relating to cost recovery issues would have involved individuals other than Alexandre Schneiter. 

Alexandre Schneiter’s position on point 9k of the indictment 

Point 9k of the indictment asserts that sometime between 13-20 October 2002, Sudan Ltd. entered into an agreement supplementary to the agreement of 8 January 2002 with the GOS in which the company confirmed its previous commitment to pay for the construction of the all-weather road between Jarayan and Leer. It is further alleged that Alexandre Schneiter and Ian Lundin made the decision to enter into this supplementary agreement with the knowledge that it meant that the Sudanese military, together with regime-led militia, would conduct offensive military operations. 

The defense contested these claims, asserting that Sudan Ltd. had not entered into the supplementary agreement as asserted by the prosecution. They argued that the supplementary agreement referred to by the prosecution was in fact a draft, not a finalised agreement – a fact later confirmed by the prosecution itself during its opening presentation. Despite this, the prosecution seemed to maintain that the company had entered into an agreement with the same content as the draft. The defense, however, argued that it was impossible to ascertain the content of a written agreement based on a previous draft. To further support their argumentation, they referred to a late September 2002 security report, which suggested that revisions had been made to the draft before potential finalisation of the agreement. According to the defense, no signed supplementary agreement had been recovered, which indicated that it had never been concluded. They also emphasised that it was an unsigned draft, and the date of the draft was unknown. 

As for Alexandre Schneiter´s alleged role in the decision to enter into the agreement, the defense emphasised that these issues of road matters and cost recovery fell outside his purview, as did contacts with the GOS. They pointed out that issues related to the supplementary agreement were categorised under “commercial, finance and admin” in the weekly security reports, which were typically completely outside of Alexandre Schneiter´s areas of responsibility. The defense also stated that even if the supplementary agreement were to include the content asserted by the prosecution, it could not be considered as promoting war crimes as the draft agreement dealt with cost recovery. The defense further denied that Alexandre Schneiter had the intent to promote war crimes. 

Responding to certain allegations made by the prosecution

The defense continued to elucidate their stance on various allegations made by the prosecution. They presented a slide from the prosecution´s PowerPoint presentation, claiming that it depicted the prosecution’s version of “what the case was really about.” The defense explained that in the prosecution’s view, the criminal case revolved around events that took place prior to the commencement of oil exploitation activities rather than what measures had been taken after such operations had begun. They emphasised that their perception was that the prosecution had made a clear distinction between these two aspects. However, the defense contended that the NGO reports presented in the case did not make the same differentiation as the prosecution. Instead, they only described the alleged human rights abuses once the oil exploitation operations had commenced. The defense argued that they had understood the prosecution´s position to be that it did not matter if the NGO reports were inaccurate when oil operations were conducted, they could still be correct even when no oil operations were taking place.

The defense then referred to another of the prosecution’s PowerPoint slides regarding “main reporting routes.” They first noted that the claim primarily relied on oral evidence. The defense then stated that their perception of the prosecution´s depiction of the main reporting routes was that all information within Sudan Ltd., Lundin Oil AB, or Lundin Petroleum went to Alexandre Schneiter. Firstly, they argued that one could not describe an organisation that had undergone significant changes over six years in a single Power Point presentation slide. Secondly, the defense highlighted that the case concerned events that occurred over two decades ago and that the evidence they had presented contradicted the prosecution´s assertions. Here, the defense urged the Court to meticulously consider how the prosecution’s information correlated with the written evidence that they had submitted.

The defense also addressed the prosecution’s presentation on security reporting from seconded Petroleum Security staff. They explained that the prosecution alleged that there had been a direct line of reporting to Alexandre Schneiter for several individuals between 1999-2001. According to the defense, however, this claim was primarily based on written evidence from 2002-2003. They further argued that none of the written evidence presented thus far suggested that such a management chain existed prior to July 2002. Hence, the defense deemed the prosecution’s PowerPoint slides to be misleading and inapplicable even at a conceptual level.

The defense followed its presentation by arguing that the indictment failed to describe how Alexandre Schneiter’s alleged complicity was pertinent to the purported principal offenses. According to the defense, this had, however, been clarified during the prosecution’s opening presentation. They displayed an image of a transcript from the prosecution’s opening presentation on 9 November 2023 that showed the prosecution’s views on the alleged causal link. The defense argued that the prosecution had expressed that they would have to prove that the complicity in each indictment point implied that the defendant understood that the Sudanese military, together with regime-allied militia, would carry out offensive military operations. According to the defense, this clarification from the prosecution was of particular significance to the forthcoming evidentiary assessment. 

Remarks on the prosecution’s so-called “ladder of complicity”

The defense then presented the prosecution´s ladder of complicity, characterising it as a complement to the indictment. According to the defense, the ladder demonstrated that all acts of complicity meant that all principal offenses subsequent to the respective date of complicity. However, they argued that the prosecution at the same time had clarified that they could not prove that a certain individual act of complicity had entailed subsequent events. Therefore, the effect, according to the defense, was that the indictment held Alexandre Schneiter criminally responsible for Ian Lundin´s alleged actions and vice versa. 

The defense referred to a transcript of the prosecution’s opening presentation from 8 November 2023 in which the prosecution elaborated on the meaning of the complicity ladder and whether it should be interpreted as showing that Schneiter should be held responsible for Ian Lundin’s alleged complicity. The transcript revealed that the prosecution had said that Alexandre Schneiter was not responsible for Ian Lundin´s actions, but that each individual should be judged based on the specific context in which they acted. Here, the defense recalled that the prosecution had said (as shown by the transcript of 9 November 2023) that the issue of complicity in each indictment point entailed the defendant understanding that the Sudanese military together with regime-allied militia would carry out offensive military operations. However, the prosecution had also stated that it was difficult to separate exactly which of the defendants’ actions correlated to which act of complicity. The defense pointed out that this was a rather sensational statement from the prosecution because what they had stated had to be substantiated, could not be measured. 

Additionally, the defense stressed that the ladder of complicity was a logically impossible construction since it was not possible to see how it worked without holding both Alexandre Schneiter and Ian Lundin criminally responsible for the alleged actions of the other. They stressed that it was self-evident that one must be able to point out with precision “who had done what and what would have constituted a principal offense.” According to the defense, the prosecution´s statement that it was “difficult to distinguish which action [had] meant what” was essentially the prosecution confirming that it was unable to substantiate the charges. The defense concluded its opening presentation by urging the Court to focus on evidence that showed a causal link between a certain alleged act of complicity in relation to a certain alleged event in the form of an offensive operation.

After the defense had finished its opening presentation, Judge Tomas Zander stated that the Court would conclude the day by letting the prosecution deliver a brief presentation about the plaintiffs whose statements would be heard in the upcoming recorded interrogations. The point of these introductions was to put the deceased plaintiffs in context for the forthcoming evidence collection. However, this plan was met with surprise from Alexandre Schneiter´s defense attorney, Per Samuelsson, who expressed that the defense had not prepared for such a presentation. After some back and forth discussion between Judge Zander and Per Samuelsson, the judge decided that Alexandre Schneiter´s defense team could submit potential comments on the interrogations in writing. The prosecution then continued with its introduction of the three plaintiffs, giving a brief overview of the interrogations and detailing, among other things, the age of the plaintiffs at the time of the events referenced in the interrogations.  

Upon completion of the prosecution´s presentation, Ian Lundin´s defense attorney Torgny Wetterberg, contested the accuracy of a statement concerning one of the plaintiffs, to which the prosecution clarified that they merely conveyed statements made by the plaintiffs during their testimonies. Here, Alexandre Schneiter´s defense attorney Olle Kullinger entered the discussion, raising the question of whether the information relayed was solely a recounting of the plaintiffs’ statements or if it also represented the prosecution´s claims. This prompted the judge to intervene, stating “I assume that this is a statement made during the interrogation by the plaintiff,” which the prosecution affirmed was the case. 

Despite the prosecution´s confirmation, Wetterberg continued to point out inaccuracies in the prosecution’s presentation and said that these points must be corrected. Here, Judge Zander reacted to Wetterberg´s argument, telling him that “it should not be corrected since it was a review of what they [the plaintiffs] themselves had stated in the interrogations.” Torgny Wetterberg responded by saying that the defense “would correct it in two years.” The judge appeared taken aback by Wetterberg’s opposition and asked him to refrain from arguing, to which Wetterberg answered, “I am not arguing at all.”

Seemingly irritated, the judge raised his voice. “You are arguing and let me tell you, I have been informed that the prosecution has clearly stated that it is information that has emerged through the interrogations. They have not said that they would correct the provided information,” Zander said heatedly.

“You have no reason to be angry”, Wetterberg replied, visibly agitated. This exchange intensified until Judge Zander finally stated, “I think we will leave [this] discussion; we are not getting anywhere.” The judge then brought proceedings to a close, and the audience left the courtroom feeling rather surprised by the heated back and forth they had just witnessed.

Next report 

As Alexandre Schneiter´s defense has now finished its opening presentation, a new stage in the trial will begin. Evidence collection will take place outside the main hearing in accordance with the Court’s ruling. Consequently, the parties will listen to the recorded interrogations with the deceased plaintiffs and witnesses separately in closed sessions.  We will also listen to the recorded interrogations and report on the information provided by the individuals in question. The next public hearing date is scheduled for 7 May 2024, when Orrön Energy AB will deliver its opening presentation.