It was in the year 1981, for many a long time ago, that an acquaintance, working for the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs, called me. He said: “Bob we are looking for an interim-manager and I know that you are interested in everything related to management. Can you recommend somebody?”
Indeed, at that time I was managing director of what is now called: “The Maastricht School of Management”.
“Well”, I said, “before giving you any advice, what is it about?” This was his story:
“We and other donors received an urgent call from Eric Ericsson, the managing director of IUEF, that stands for Inter University Exchange Fund, based in Geneva, Switzerland. His former deputy managing director, called Craig Williamson, had left IUEF some time ago to set up his own organization to assist refugees from Southern Africa. This was in line of what IUEF was doing. IUEF gave scholarships to young refugees to continue their studies abroad.
Craig Williamson, then based in Lausanne, Switzerland, had called Eric Ericsson and asked him to visit him urgently in Lausanne. It was almost a matter of life and death, he was told. Thus, Ericsson drove to Lausanne to meet him in his office. To his surprise Williamson was not alone. There was a second man who introduced himself as Brigadier Coetzee, head of the BOSS. The BOSS was and is the South African Intelligence Service. They told Ericsson that an agent of the BOSS, Gordon Winter, had defected to the West and that he was writing a book about the BOSS. As Williamson was also an agent of the BOSS they were almost certain that Gordon Winer would brake Williamson’s cover. They therefore told Ericsson that he should employ again Williamson as his deputy to save his cover and if he would not do so, something bad would happen to him. (By the way, Gordon Winter indeed wrote this book, published in 1981, called: “Inside BOSS, South Africa’s Secret Police.” In it, Winter mentions Williamson, disclosing that Williamson had infiltrated IUEF, at that time controlling all cash flows.) Consequently, according to Ericsson, he went into hiding as he feared for his life”. He asked his major donors to support him That is the reason that we are looking for an interim manager, my counterpart said.
“And you believe that story, I asked?”.
“Well why not?”
“If his cover would be broken, then what does it matter where somebody works. I don’t know why Ericsson comes up with such a fake story, but believe me, there must be much more to it”.
It was agreed that I would set up a team to investigate the matter. Our man up front would become the managing director ad-interim, here called Tom, one would interview all those working in the office in Geneva, here called Simon and I would interview the major donors being next to the Netherlands, Canada, Denmark, Norway and Sweden.
Let me now first tell you something about Ericsson and IUEF. I had met Ericsson once before when it was the intention of set up an apex organization of several development assistance organizations in the late seventies. At that time, I was managing director of a Dutch donor organization, called HIVOS. During a lunch meeting Ericsson told me then proudly that he was a friend of Olof Palme.
The IUEF was, if I remember correctly an association with a General Board and an Executive Committee. Members of the General Board were delegates of national student organizations who gave support to students who fled their countries for political reasons as in the case of the Apartheids Regime of South Africa. IUEF received a lot of money from especially the donors mentioned above to give them scholarships. They, however, gave also financial support to prisoners on Robben Island; the place where also Mandela had been imprisoned.
The problem for the Dutch government, who had taken the lead in this respect, was that they had no say about what was happening within IUEF. Thus, having parachuted somebody as ad-interim manager was so to speak illegal. For that matter it was agreed with the other donors and the Executive Committee of IUEF that within a month a general meeting would be organized in Geneva in which the temporary employment of the ad-interim manager would be formally ratified. It was also agreed that employees of IUEF would be allowed to attend that two-day meeting, but they were not allowed to intervene or say anything during that conference. It was also agreed that Ericsson, being in hiding, was not allowed to attend this meeting.
Before that meeting was held, I had found out the following:
- Two members of the Executive Committee had established a Dutch organization in the sixties of last century that was spying on Dutch leftist students on behalf of the CIA. When this came out, that organization was busted. Some years later these two, together with Ericsson, established IUEF.
- IUEF had set up secretly another organization through which the money earmarked for prisoners on Robben Island was channeled. The MD of that organization had links with the CIA and the person at the receiving end was an agent of the BOSS.
- Middle management working in SIDA didn’t trust what was happening in IUEF and wanted to start a financial audit. SIDA stand for the Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency. SIDA is a government agency working on behalf of the Swedish government, with the mission to reduce poverty in the world. For quite some time top management blocked such an audit. Note that the Director General in those days was E. Michanek, also a friend of Olof Palme.
- My interviewee in SIDA told me that top management was not able to block such an audit forever as it became quite suspicious that it anyway had been blocked already for such a long time without having ever given a reason for it. Thus, management in IUEF knew that soon a extensive audit would take place.
- But then, it appeared that according to IUEF, Williamson, before leaving IUEF, had taken the entire accounting with him. That was of course a contradiction in terminus. If Williamson had indeed done so, why then was Ericsson forced to take him back at the moment that the audit would start? Again a very unlikely story. The only conclusion one could draw was that Williamson had been sacrificed to thwart such an audit, as IUEF had to hide a lot.
Then the conference took place. It was attended by a fair amount of people, such as members of the General Board, all five members of the Executive Committee a number of invitees such as a member of the Canadian parliament, the personal adviser of Kaunda, then president of Zambia and all employees.
On stage not only the members of the Executive Committee were seated, leading the meeting, but also Ericsson despite the agreement that he would not be present. Suddenly he didn’t have to hide.
As our position would only become clear during this conference, we were not in a position to protest.
An important issue on the agenda was of course the formal nomination of our man as ad-interim manager. Yet, during these two days our point on the agenda got less and less priority. Only at the end of the second day was it our turn. I should say, it was the turn of the ad-interim manager.
Before the position of our man would be discussed another noteworthy event took place. Before the conference started I had chosen our positions to watch certain persons closely. I had chosen to watch the ad-interim deputy MD. It was a guy from “South Rhodesia” as he was described who had attracted my attention. During the first morning session, I was seated too far away to see what he really did. Seemingly he was just fooling around. He was dressed in a very simple way with his shirt hanging half-way out of his trousers. He had put a number of fruits in front of him, playing with them. He showed his passport to his neighbor and he was continuously pouncing on his chair. Yet, he also did something else, but I could not see what it was. Thus, after the first break I choose to sit very close to him and then it became obvious. He was clearly also a master spy. Although, it was agreed that he too would not interfere at all, he still did so. If something happened during the conference which was not to his liking he shouted “silently” to one of the board members something, which then that board member repeated loudly. As a consequence the meeting was then fully disrupted. In other words, this guy was in control of what happened during this conference.
When it was “our” turn, Tom stood up and thanked the organization for having allowed him to have taken over part-time the role of MD and that he would love to be formally appointed as MD ad-interim. Yet, he would accept this nomination only if two conditions would be met:
- The MD, who was supposed to be in hiding and about whom it had been agreed that he would not attend this conference would be fired per direct and that
- Two of the members of the Executive Committee would also be fired per direct.
This created of course a lot of commotion. The Executive Committee suspended the conference to discuss what to do. Not only all members of this Committee convened but two more persons attended, viz. Ericsson and the wife of Ericsson.
Before continuing I have to say something about the wife of Eric Ericsson. Simon had also interviewed her and she had made an impression on him. She had been very apologetic and sad about what had happened. She felt that she had been made a victim by her husband, who had married her when working as his secretary. According to the rumors she now had a love affair with our master spy, the guy from “South Rhodesia”.
After half an hour they returned and told us that they would not any longer make use of our services. As a consequence I was now allowed to brief my government formally. I had of course briefed them informally, but they could not do anything with the information supplied by me to them as formally they had not conducted any interference. Actually after having told them that not only the BOSS was implicated but also the CIA and MI6, they told me that I should stop with collecting more information. They didn’t want to know more about it. After all, my assignment was only to make sure that IUEF would be run properly while the MD was in hiding and to ensure that the Dutch government would not be mentioned negatively in the media. In the case of the second task, I met the requirement fully. Whereas many articles have been published about this affair in the British, the South African and the Swedish newspapers, it remained silent in the Dutch press. I did, however, not fulfil the first part of my assignment, as I advised my government to stop all funding to the IUEF.
The donors then agreed to meet in Tivoli, Copenhagen to discuss what to do. All five donors would be represented. I was part of the Dutch delegation, but next to that it was decided that nobody else would attend and certainly not anybody working for IUEF. Again, surprise, surprise management of IUEF was there as well including the “South Rhodesian” guy. This was supported by the Swedish government, despite our agreement that they would not attend. Sweden was represented by the same E. Michanek, for the occasion called travelling ambassador on behalf of Olof Palme. Sweden wanted to continue funding IUEF and to leave everything as it was. The Dutch wanted to stop. Michanek put pressure on the other donors to choose his side, but Canada and Norway went along with the Netherlands. Only Denmark choose the Swedish side because of the enormous pressure Michanek exerted on the Danish minister of Development Assistance, so I was told.
At the end of that meeting the South Rhodesian guy walked up to me, being furious. He shouted in my face: “Waisfisz, you think that you did a good job, but it is terrible what you did!”
Then it was decided in Sweden that Ericsson would be replaced by the SIDA-man that I had interviewed. Wrong choice as it was clear that the IUEF would not survive his nomination. And that is what happened.
My conclusion: Olof Palme was fully compromised. To the outside world he was against the Apartheid Regime, but in reality he supported the export of weapons from Sweden to South Africa.
The IUEF was a vehicle
to maintain contacts between Sweden and a number of Secret Services, especially
the BOSS, to control radicalized refugees and to control the money given by a
number of donors. To all likelihood, Olof Palme replayed his hand in the eyes
of the BOSS.
By the way, I have had very recently an exchange of emails with Jan Stocklassa, the author of the book: “The Man Who Played with Fire: Stieg Larsson’s Lost Files and the Hunt for an Assassin” in which Stocklassa investigates the murder of Olof Plame. The theories presented in his book are based on crime writer Stieg Larsson’s research into the Swedish far right and its possible connections to the assassination. Stieg Larsson, by the way, is the author of the trilogy, “Millenium”.
He wrote me among other things the following: “Yes OP played double roles in weapon deliveries at several occasions (India and Middle East), but I have never heard that it would involve SA. If you have read my book I rather think that the fact that the OP government stopped large shipments of weapons in 1985 where SA and Iran were involved may have been a motive as well as the fact that OP was threatening to disclose these shipments which would threaten even the US government”.
I am not in a position to proof that also shipments of weapons to South Africa were involved but my sources appeared to be very reliable. Mind you, I received this information already in 1981 and the rest of the information then received appeared to be correct. Why was it otherwise so important to Michanek, friend of Olof Palme, to keep IUEF alive, whereas it was made clear that it had been fully infiltrated by the BOSS and the CIA.