More than 30 years ago in 1986, the Swedish Prime Minister, Olaf Palme was murdered in cold blood. Palme was shot in the back at close range on a Stockholm street while walking home from the cinema with his wife Lisbeth. There have been several theories about the murder of Palme and almost 35 years on, the world might finally know who killed him and why he had to die. The prosecutors investigating the case have received a dossier from South Africa and the Swedes are set to present their findings on the Olaf Palme assassination. While this might put many ghosts to rest, it might sound trouble for the Gandhi family as well if at all the Olaf Palme assassination turns out to have a connection to the Bofors scam.
Theories about the murder of Olof Palme
There are several theories about the assassination of Olof Palme. One theory claims that the South African apartheid intelligence services, motivated by Palme’s support for the African National Congress and his efforts to close down arms and oil smuggling rings involving the apartheid regime became the reason for his assassination.
Another theory is that Olaf Palme was killed by an individual acting out of ideological hatred for the Social Democrat prime minister. One suspect is Stig Engström, known as “Skandia man” because he worked for the Swedish insurance company in offices next to the scene of the murder.
However, there is another theory that is of particular important to India, and especially the Gandhi family. It is also alleged that Olaf Palme may have been killed over the Bofors scam.
One of the theories furthered by Dr Jan Bondeson, the author of Blood on the Snow: The Killing of Olof Palme, told the BBC that she believes that middlemen involved in the Bofors scandal of the 1980s were responsible for his killing.
“It may well be that Palme found out that the Bofors company was corrupt the very day of the murder,” he said. “That gives the middlemen behind the Bofors deal a strong reason to murder him. But that’s something the police have always ignored,” Bondeson told the BBC.
Olaf Palme, Rajiv Gandhi and the Bofors scandal
The Bofors scam was one, over 30 years ago, that bought the Rajiv Gandhi government to its knees. On March 18, 1986, India signed a Rs 1,437-crore deal with Swedish arms manufacturer AB Bofors for the supply of 400 155 mm Howitzer guns for the Army. A year later, on April 16, 1987, a Swedish radio channel alleged that the company had bribed top Indian politicians and defence personnel to secure the contract. The subsequent investigation led to several layers being exposed by the then investigative journalist Chitra Subramaniam. In her investigation, she had revealed and asserted repeatedly that Rajiv Gandhi was personally culpable in the Bofors scam.
A journalist investigating the Bofors scam, Chitra Subramaniam had revealed that there was a quid pro quo arrangement between Rajiv Gandhi and Olof Palme in the Bofors scandal. Bofors would pay money to a foundation in Sweden to make it easier for payments to be made to Indians and others.
In a report published in The News Minute, Chitra had reported:
This conversation took place on a flight in the latter part of January 1986 when the two Prime Ministers were travelling together. Rajiv Gandhi “urgently requested Olof Palme to receive funds from Bofors as a counter-weight” to payments in India,” Sten Lindstrom, the police official who led the investigations has told TNM.
“Olof Palme and Martin Ardbo informed Rajiv Gandhi that the funds could be paid from Bofors to a foundation in Sweden for the purpose of promoting industry and employment in the Karlskoga region” where the Swedish arms manufacturer is located. This conversation took place towards the end of the negotiations, at a time when the Swedes were worried the contract would be granted to the French whose lobbying in New Delhi and Paris was fierce. The Howitzer contract with Bofors was signed in March 1986.
Author and journalist Steig Larsson had also expressed his suspicions about the murder of Olaf Palme having something to do with the Bofors scandal.
In a letter Stieg Larsson wrote only 20 days after the assassination, he mentions that weapons dealings may be the motive.
In a Times of India interview of Larsson, he says:
That’s also what I come to at the end of my investigation. It involves Bofors, India and several other countries. Remember that PM Rajiv Gandhi came to Olof Palme’s funeral on March 15, 1986, and that’s when he officially confirmed the order of 400 pieces of 155mm howitzers of a value of Rs 1,437-crore. When Olof Palme was shot he had already started a campaign to stop illegal weapon deliveries to Iran through several transit countries, which is a very valid motive for the assassination.
In fact, CIA documents had revealed something far worse. The documents had revealed that Sweden had closed the investigation into the Bofors scandal because it wanted to save Rajiv Gandhi from the blowback of the investigation.
Sonia Gandhi, her maternal family and the Bofors scam
In an exclusive story, OpIndia had revealed the possible involvement of Sonia Gandhi and her maternal Italian family in the Bofors scam. OpIndia has accessed evidence to show that Sonia Gandhi’s Italian family could have been involved in the Bofors scandal, with their names carefully hidden from the public eye. The documentary evidence also points towards the fact that perhaps, the government of India (GOI) under Rajiv Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi himself had knowledge of the alleged involvement and actively tried to cover it up.
The details of that investigation can be read here.
While there are several theories about the assassination of Olaf Palme and any one of them could be true, nobody really knows what the revelations might be, come Wednesday. However, at the off-chance that the investigation does reveal Bofors as the reason for his assassination, it could open a can of worms and a world of problems for the Gandhi family.