| Jan-Olof Bengtsson |
|Born||April 30, 1952|
The political editor of the Swedish newspaper Kvällsposten in Malmö.
- 1 Accredited
- 2 Featured articles
- 3 Bernt Carlsson's secret meeting with De Beers
- 3.1 Never published in the English language
- 3.2 Stressed and nervous before death crash
- 3.3 Meeting the diamond cartel
- 3.4 A diamond giant
- 3.5 Forced to travel
- 3.6 'Polished gangsters'
- 3.7 Mysterious 'pressuriser'
- 3.8 Aggressive discussions
- 3.9 Climax of his life
- 3.10 Beware Christmas parcel bombs
- 3.11 The safe was empty
- 3.12 Refusal to comment
- 3.13 The wanted document
- 3.14 New diamond mine
- 3.15 Criticism by Carlsson
- 3.16 Hungry for profit
- 3.17 Change of travel plans
- 3.18 Witness to murder
- 3.19 No theory
- 3.20 Speculations
- 3.21 Bankole Timothy
- 3.22 Many questions
- 4 References
- 5 External links
Bengtsson is accredited to the International Press Centre by the Danish ministry of foreign affairs. He is a political editor of the Swedish daily Kvällsposten, Malmö, Sweden.
Jan-Olof Bengtsson has produced many featured articles, but is best known for his coverage of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus and his coining of "ghost town" to describe Famagusta in 1974.
In Sweden's newspaper, iDAG, Bengtsson wrote a series of three articles in March 1990 about UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, who died when Pan Am Flight 103 was sabotaged over Lockerbie, Scotland on December 21, 1988. The articles alleged that Commissioner Carlsson's arm had been twisted by the diamond mining giant De Beers into making a stopover in London for a secret meeting and into joining the doomed flight, rather than taking as he had intended a Sabena flight direct from Brussels to New York.
Bernt Carlsson's secret meeting with De Beers
In December 1988, former Labour MEP Michael McGowan, as President of the Development Committee of the European Parliament, had invited Bernt Carlsson, the Assistant Secretary-General of the United Nations and UN Commissioner for Namibia, to call in at Brussels. Bernt Carlsson was on his way back to the United States from Namibia and agreed to address members of the Development Committee. On 20 December 1988, at the European Parliament, Carlsson spoke about his hopes for an independent Namibia and the end of apartheid in South Africa to a packed meeting of MEPs.
Instead of returning directly to New York after the speech, Bernt Carlsson flew to London on 21 December 1988.
Never published in the English language
Jan-Olof Bengtsson, the political editor of Kvällsposten newspaper in Malmö, Sweden, explained Bernt Carlsson's change of itinerary in a series of three articles in Sweden's iDAG newspaper on 12, 13 and 14 March 1990. Never published in the English language, these iDAG articles revealed that Commissioner Carlsson's arm had been twisted by the diamond mining giant De Beers into making a stopover in London for a secret meeting and into joining the doomed Pan Am Flight 103 at Heathrow, rather than taking as he had intended a Sabena flight direct from Brussels to New York.
Stressed and nervous before death crash
- "Pressad och nervös före dödskraschen"
- Bernt Carlsson, UN Commissioner for Namibia, had less than seven hours to live when at 11.06am on 21 December 1988 he arrived in London on flight BA 391.
- Strictly speaking he was meant to fly directly from Brussels to New York in time for the historic signing of the Namibia Independence Agreement the day after. But Bernt Carlsson could not make it. He had a meeting. An important meeting with a "pressuriser" from the South African diamond cartel, which was so secret that evidently not even Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, UN Secretary-General, knew anything about it. Here iDAG maps out the last 24 hours in the life of Bernt Carlsson.
Meeting the diamond cartel
- The memorial service in the Folkets Hus in Stockholm on 11 January 1989 for Bernt Carlsson gathered most of our Heads of Government, representatives of the Namibia independence movement SWAPO and Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the UN Secretary-General.
- When he died in the Pan Am bombing, Bernt Carlsson was less than 24 hours away from the fulfilment of his dreams - the signing of the Namibia agreement in New York which would finally pave the way to a free and independent Namibia. This was supposed to be the climax of his career with the UN, a career that began in December 1986 when he was appointed Commissioner for Namibia. Bernt Carlsson had great support from SWAPO but much less so from South Africa because of that country's substantial economic interests in Namibia: an interest in gold, uranium but above all in diamonds.
- Javier Pérez de Cuéllar in his speech at the memorial ceremony on a cold day in January last year  described the last 24 hours in the life of Bernt Carlsson:
- "Bernt Carlsson was returning to New York following an official visit to Brussels where he had spoken to a Committee within the European Parliament about the Namibia agreement," Pérez de Cuéllar began. "He stopped briefly in London to honour a long-standing invitation by a non-governmental organisation with interests in Namibia."
- Pérez de Cuéllar was wrong. True, Bernt Carlsson's trip to Brussels had been planned almost six months earlier. But his decision to return to New York via London was only made on 16 December 1988. The meeting in London was definitely not a long-standing invitation by Namibia sympathisers.
A diamond giant
- This was about a secret meeting with a "pressuriser" from De Beers, the giant diamond company. This company in turn owns Consolidated Diamond Mines (CDM), the world's largest producer of diamonds which have been produced for more than 60 years in Namibia. It goes without saying that Bernt Carlsson in his capacity of Commissioner for Namibia had contacts with representatives of a great number of countries and political organisations as part of his job.
Forced to travel
- But why a secret meeting with the diamond cartel in London? A meeting which to all intents and purposes he did not want to have but was forced to. On around 8 or 9 December, Carlsson receives a telephone call from the "pressuriser" at his United Nations office in New York. The telephone call is from London. We do not know what the telephone call was about. However, Bernt Carlsson is unsure. He does not know whether to act or not. As if going might put him in a compromising position. On the morning of 16 December, the day on which the travel arrangements are changed, Bernt Carlsson meets up with an old friend who has come to see him. He is Weine Karlsson, head of department at Stockholm University:
- "In the early morning we sat talking in Bernt's office," he explains. "But after only a few minutes he became uneasy and asked me to go and wait in another room of the office. He had something urgent to deal with. It is possible that it had something to do with the trip. He said that 'important business needs to be done'. He was away for about half an hour."
- Weine Karlsson continues his story:
- "We all know that Bernt was very unobtrusive. Shy almost. Only, now and again he exploded. As when suddenly he said to me, 'You've got no idea what 'polished gangsters' we are dealing with here'."
- On 19 December, Bernt leaves New York for Brussels to make his speech in the European Parliament the next day. The visit was arranged by David Lowe, now with the Socialist International. Right up to this interview, he has felt 'guilt-ridden' and convinced that it was he who 'enticed' Carlsson to go to Europe and therefore is 'indirectly responsible for his death on the plane'. But when Lowe learns about the secret meeting in London, he is calm again.
- "He made his speech on 20 December, before the Development Committee in Brussels," Lowe says. "After the meeting we went to a restaurant for lunch and discussions with some other friends. Our discussions continued until about 3pm." David Lowe continues: "It was at this point that Bernt suddenly said that he had to check out as he had to meet 'some friends' in London. I thought to myself, Good Lord, he has all this going on in New York. He will be even more tired than he is already. I remember thinking he was mad and why not go directly to New York for the signing of the agreement? I gathered he would catch a flight from Brussels to London at about 5pm that evening."
- However, Bernt Carlsson had 'lied' to his friend David Lowe. He stayed in Brussels that afternoon and only arrived in London the day after - on 21 December.
- When we telephoned his old colleagues at the Namibia office, not one of them wished to talk about the meeting with the mysterious 'pressuriser' from the diamond cartel:
- "All I know is that Bernt Carlsson was travelling to London to meet representatives of an NGO (in this case organisations friendly towards Namibia)," says Malthi Ranin who was his secretary at the time.
- iDAG has a copy of a private memorandum which says something completely different. This is a memorandum to Bernt Carlsson from his own office:
- "Mr Timothy says he will be waiting for you as soon as you get through the tunnel. Your meeting will finish in time for your next arrangement at 2pm. He will also provide a car to take you round."
- 'Mr Timothy'? His full name is Bankole Timothy. Not much known about him. Just another name working for the diamond cartel. But one who does know something about him is Randolph Vigne, secretary of the Namibia support committee:
- "Bankole Timothy worked for the PR department at De Beers for 15 to 20 years. I understand they pensioned him off but called him back when the independence of Namibia suddenly started accelerating. They probably felt they needed someone like him with contacts." Vigne continues: "I don't think he works for them any more. I believe he had a temporary assignment which is now completed."
- Was Bernt Carlsson that temporary assignment?
- iDAG managed to track down Bankole Timothy. But the telephone conversation was brief. And aggressive: "Could you tell me what you and Bernt Carlsson talked about when you met in London on 21 December 1988?" He replied:
- "I am sorry. I am very, very sorry but I have nothing to say about it." You do not want.....(we are interrupted). "Do not disturb me any more. I am going out. I don't know how you got my number. I'm going out and you start asking questions about....."
- You met Bernt Carlsson on the morning of 21 December and.....(we are interrupted)
- "Don't disturb me anymore. What are you on about? (screams) I don't know who you are. And you want to interview me on the phone. I have no comments to make!"
- At about 5.30pm on 21 December 1988 the telephone rings in the home of Pentti Väänänen, then Secretary-General of the Socialist International, and an old friend of Bernt:
- Did he tell you who he had seen in London?
- How would you describe his frame of mind?
- "If you want me to tell you in just a few words, he sounded nervous," he replied.
Climax of his life
- Nervous? Why? Bernt Carlsson was close to the climax of his life with the Namibia agreement the next day. He should have been happy and optimistic. But why nervous?
- PICTURE CAPTIONS (page one of article): Not even Javier Perez de Cuellar, UN Secretary-General, knew about Bernt Carlsson's new travel arrangements. Today, not one of Carlsson's old colleagues wants to say anything about the mysterious meeting with the diamond cartel in London. (page two of the article-large picture): Bernt Carlsson should have travelled directly from Brussels to New York for the historic signing of the Namibia agreement. Instead, he altered his travel arrangements and became one of the passengers who died on the Pan Am 103. (Picture left-hand side): His friend, Pentti Väänänen, thought that Bernt Carlsson seemed nervous before his trip to New York, despite approaching the climax of his life. (Right-hand picture): Bernt Carlsson had a secret meeting in London with the world's largest producer of diamonds. It would seem that he was coerced into it.
- TOMORROW: When, in the days following the crash, Carlsson's belongings are checked in his sealed UN office in New York, people find to their amazement that his safe is empty. In the days before his death he warns a friend in New York not to open a parcel by sender unknown. The day after Bernt Carlsson's death, CDM, the diamond producer, publishes the discovery of a new diamond mine in Namibia.
Beware Christmas parcel bombs
The second iDAG article about Bernt Carlsson was published on 13 March 1990:
The safe was empty
- "Kassaskåpet var tomt"
- When Bernt Carlsson's safe was opened six days after the Pan Am explosion, those present had a minor shock: the safe was empty! Despite the fact that the office had been sealed already on 21 December 1988, and his private apartment the day after, by the UN's own security staff. The opening was witnessed by, among others, Bernt Carlsson's girl friend Sanya Popovic, his sister Inger Carlsson-Musser and Embassy Counsellor Stefan Noréen of the Swedish Delegation at the UN. In the days immediately before Bernt Carlsson made the trip to his secret meeting in London, which we wrote about yesterday, he was very uneasy.
- According to Sanya Popovic
- "December was like clouded in a nightmare. He became increasingly nervous. He said that if I received a parcel I was not to open it under any circumstances. This was on 17 December. He said that people usually start getting parcels at this time, it being Christmas. But unless I knew who sent it, I was not to open it."
- On 22 December - the day after the Pan Am bombing - Bernt Carlsson's apartment was sealed off. ::"The lock was changed," says Sanya Popovic. "I was given one key, and the UN security department had another. I was told that sealing off everything could take a long time pending the analysis. I therefore ensured that all windows were properly locked, all lights switched off, etc. A few days later, however, a friend and I passed by the apartment in a taxi. The apartment is easy to recognise from the outside: front view, third floor and five windows. My friend pointed out that the lights were on. So I got out and walked back. I found that some lights were switched on but there was no-one there." Sanya Popovic continues: "If there was anything of interest in the apartment, someone else got to it first."
- On the evening of the disaster, the Swedish foreign minister, Sten Andersson, telephoned Bernt Carlsson's sister Inger Carlsson-Musser, who had lived in the US for almost 20 years, to give his commiserations. On 28 December 1988 Inger Carlsson-Musser travelled to New York to go through Bernt Carlsson's belongings in his UN office. This was the office which had been sealed off since the day of the accident. She asked Sanya Popovic and the Embassy Counsellor Stefan Noréen to help. We understand that his safe was empty. What can you say about that?
Refusal to comment
- Embassy Counsellor Stefan Noréen:
- "I was assisting Inger Carlsson-Musser in taking charge of her brother's personal belongings in the office. Nothing else happened there." Can you confirm that the safe was empty when it was opened? "I refuse to comment," Noréen replied. Is it true or not? "I refuse to comment. I was there. But I do not want to talk about what exactly happened. If anyone should comment surely they should be Bernt Carlsson's family."
- iDAG tried to contact Inger Carlsson-Musser, but without success. We would have asked her about the empty safe. Also, to explain information from foreign investigative journalists who claimed that foreign minister, Sten Andersson, had asked her to keep an eye out for a specific document which was supposed to be held in the safe.
The wanted document
- We have not obtained any comments from Sten Andersson either. We did, however, speak to his private secretary, Pierre Schori, who used to be a close friend of Bernt Carlsson.
- During a secret meeting in London, Bernt Carlsson met a person called Bankole Timothy. Do you know him?
- "No, I know of no-one of that name."
- He represents the diamond cartel.
- "The diamond cartel," queries Pierre Schori, almost laughing. "I know nothing about that."
- We know that Sten Andersson telephoned Bernt's sister Inger Carlsson-Musser in the USA.
- We are informed by foreign journalists that Sten Andersson was looking for some documents which Bernt's sister Inger was supposed to be able to help in finding, and which were kept in Bernt's safe.
- "This is nonsense, as far as I'm concerned. What's this all about?"
- We understand that the safe was empty when it was opened.
- "I know nothing about that. I don't understand a word. All I can say is that it is nonsense to claim that Sten Andersson should have done this or that."
- Sten Andersson is difficult to get hold of. Perhaps we should ask him?
- "I know this is all nonsense. I think you're on the wrong track," Schori replied.
New diamond mine
- On 22 December, the day after the Pan Am bombing, it was announced by Consolidated Diamond Mines, wholly-owned by De Beers, that $36m is being invested in new diamond production in Namibia. This will be done in Auchas, 45km from Oranjemund. It is estimated that the annual yield of diamonds over a ten-year period will amount to roughly the equivalent of 50 million Swedish Krona (SEK). The announcement is mentioned in a 'country report' about Namibia which was issued last year  and published by the Economist Intelligence Unit. The report says, inter alia:
- "The company made their announcement on 22 December 1988, which was also the date that the Namibia agreement was signed." :This is brushed aside as pure coincidence by De Beers representatives in London.
Criticism by Carlsson
- Bernt Carlsson, as the intended UN Commissioner for Namibia, rarely spoke about the enormous diamond assets in the country and the multi-national companies exploiting the finds. There is, however, one exception. He was interviewed for a British TV documentary entitled 'Case of the Disappearing Diamonds' by Granada which was broadcast early in December 1988. In the programme, Bernt Carlsson speaks about the ruthless exploitation taking place in the diamond business:
- "The business has tried to pick the raisin from the cake. This means that they have been after the large diamonds instead of calm but constant development. The way they are doing it will endanger the survival of the mines."
Hungry for profit
- Carlsson continues:
- "One would expect from a worldwide organisation like De Beers to behave in a socially and financially responsible manner. However, as far as Namibia is concerned, they have only been interested in the maximum profit without regard to social, economic-political or even legal considerations."
- On 16 March 1989 De Beers announced yet another diamond find in Namibia. This time it is a mine in Elizabeth Bay from which over the next ten years SEK300m-worth of diamonds are expected to be dug up. This particular find appears to delight the mysterious Bankole Timothy and, unusually, he himself issues the press release to the surprised public.
- PICTURE CAPTIONS (page 1 of article - picture 1) Sanya Popovic was present when the safe was opened and discovered to be empty. Bernt was very security-conscious and kept all his documents under lock and key. (picture 2) This is Carlsson's home in New York. The apartment was sealed off after the death crash. Carlsson's girlfriend later determined that someone had entered the apartment. (page 2 - picture 1) iDAG could reveal yesterday that Carlsson met representatives of a diamond cartel with interests in Namibia during a secret meeting in London. (picture 2) Bernt Carlsson felt very uneasy. He warned his girlfriend about opening parcels from senders unknown.
- TOMORROW: "I cannot say that I can explain why Bernt changed his travel arrangements. Bernt took the only explanation with him", says a very close friend for many years. This friend always walked close to Bernt Carlsson, and yet stayed away from the public eye.
Change of travel plans
- This is the third and final part of Sweden's iDAG newspaper reportage by Jan-Olof Bengtsson on 14 March 1990 "Han tog Svaren på Frågorna med Sig":
- Her name is Meta Johansson, and she is a close friend of Bernt Carlsson for many years. A close friend who was always there but far from the limelight and all the scrutiny. iDAG spoke to her.
- Bernt Carlsson in his many years as an international worker for solidarity experienced a great deal of misery, a lot of drama and many weird and wonderful cases. But he carried on regardless and worked for what he believed in. In a discreet, almost shy, manner. Always determinedly and in a very competent way.
Witness to murder
- On 10 April 1983, Bernt Carlsson who was Secretary-General of the Socialist International (SI) at the time, was an eye witness to the fatal shooting of the moderate Palestinian Issam Sartawi in the lobby of Hotel Montochero in Albufeira, Portugal. The terrorist, Abu Nidal, claimed responsibility for the killing. Because of his job as SI Secretary-General, his apartment in London at the time was subject to a number of break-ins while he was overseas.
- These are some examples of the security measures taken by Bernt: When they opened Bernt's safe in his New York office, it was found to be empty.
- "Yes, so I heard," replies Meta Johansson.
- Isn't that strange?
- "Yes, clearly this is very strange. But I do not know the rules of the game in cases such as this."
- She continues:
- "I have helped his family go through all the papers and documents which we found in his apartment in the US. Neither the family nor I have found any papers linked to the accident."
- Do you have any theory as to why the safe was empty?
- "I have no theory. Nor do I know who had access to the safe. Bernt's sister Inger does not know either."
- Do you know anything about what Sten Andersson spoke to the sister, Inger Carlsson-Musser, about?
- "No, as I was not there, I cannot know what he asked her to do. And I was not present when the safe was opened. So I'm sure you will understand that I cannot comment on this."
- Meta Johansson continues:
- "If I may say so without being misunderstood, I have had so many speculations in my head that I doubt if there can be any more. Some more constructive than others."
- Bernt was very security-conscious, isn't that right?
- "Yes, very much so. But being security-conscious also meant that he carried important documents with him in his hand luggage. There were documents that he would want to take personal care of."
- But the safe was completely empty. Also of 'unimportant documents'?
- "That is true."
- What do you know about Bankole Timothy, the person Bernt Carlsson met in secret in London?
- "I am very sorry, but I cannot help you with any information about that meeting."
- Why is the subject so sensitive?
- "I don't think it's sensitive. I just feel the people involved with the matter should speak."
- We understand that Bernt was not particularly interested in meeting this person. That he was afraid he might be discredited as a neutral UN official?
- "Obviously, with the kind of work Bernt was engaged in he would meet many people. And of course some people are more interesting to meet than others. But you are forced to. With Bernt, whatever he considered important to his work, he would go and do. Even if not every time he would jump with joy and shout hooray and think this was the best thing in the world. He was extremely dutiful."
- Do you know anything about the position of Bankole Timothy?
- "I know who he is and what he is doing."
- How would you describe it?
- "No, I do not want to."
- How would you explain why Bernt changed his travel arrangements at the 11th hour? His intermediate landing in London for this meeting before he returned to New York?
- "I cannot say that I can explain the change in travel arrangements. Bernt took the only explanation with him. You can speak to a lot of people. But only a few are likely to know why Bernt changed his mind."
- iDAG does not wish to claim with these articles that Bernt Carlsson was the target of the bomb which blasted Pan Am 103 from the air and in which he was one of the 259 victims. We have no basis to make such a claim. We have only wanted to point out what seems to be a number of curious circumstances and that maybe no-one will ever have the full answers to the questions. What forced Bernt Carlsson to fly to the secret meeting in London and which was against his will? Why does Bankole Timothy refuse to say what the meeting was about, but gets aggressive when he is asked?
- Why was Bernt Carlsson's safe in New York empty when it was opened on 28 December 1988? The questions are many, but the answers are few.
- PICTURE CAPTIONS (top) iDAG has in a series of articles revealed a number of fascinating facts linked to Bernt Carlsson and the Lockerbie disaster. (in main text) The Swedish diplomat and UN Commissioner for Namibia, Bernt Carlsson, was killed on 21 December 1988 when a Pan Am flight on its way to New York crashed at Lockerbie in Scotland.