You are on page 1of 2

Stockholm, April 16, 2006

Cultural heritage: Dishonest TV program launched false allegations
My attention has recently been drawn to the fact that the final outcome of a media story in
which I was portrayed as a most dubious person never reached most of those who had seen
“alarming” headlines a few years ago. I therefore urge anybody who saw the program to be
informed of the fact that all allegations against me proved to be unfounded.
On February 29, 2000, Swedish TV in a program called Striptease, raised the very important
matter of international trade in antiquities and cultural heritage. However, the program had a
strong sensationalist tendency and therefore grossly missed the seriousness that the matter
deserves. The program was nevertheless later aired also in other countries.
One part of the program related to my person and my possible actions. Only that part will be
referred to here. The program in my case boils down to two issues:
1. Had I done anything illegal or improper when assisting a leading public Swedish
museum to acquire a few minor archaeological objects from Colombia in the 1960s (!)
when I was the junior officer at the Embassy of Sweden in Bogotá?
2. Did – as insidiously insinuated but never stated in the program – my modest personal
collection (a few objects of which I had recently offered for sale) consist of pieces that
I had “smuggled out” of Latin America?
Due to my rank as ambassador in 2000, almost 40 years after the assistance to the museum,
there was a media interest in the case. The Swedish Foreign Ministry, immediately initiated a
thorough investigation, and a private person filed a report to the police. I presented detailed
information on the two issues mentioned above to the investigations, including invoices etc
proving that my private objects had been acquired from a series of prestigious international
galleries and auction houses (including Bukowskis in Sweden, Sotheby´s and others in New
York, London, Paris and elsewhere). I abstained from going public as I did not want to
interfere in any way with the ongoing examination.
The police investigation very soon concluded that the case did not even call for a preliminary
investigation. The Foreign Ministry, on July 12, 2000, after considerable research into the
archives, presented its report, stating that I was acquitted, that the allegations were unfounded
and that, in the light of rules and regulations of the 1960s, neither my person nor the museum
could be blamed.
In the TV program, the owner of the Galleri Lilja where I had placed a few of my own objects
for sale was interviewed with a hidden camera. Later, after having seen the TV program and
learned about the investigations, he sent me a letter (August 25, 2000) apologizing for the
damage done to me by his own exaggerated and misleading statements about my objects,
aimed to impress potential buyers. In his letter he also says, with reference to my objects in
his gallery: “You have always made a point of providing evidence of having acquired them
at serious places outside the countries of origin”.
The results of the investigations clearing my name were published in the two major Swedish
daily newspapers, the Svenska Dagbladet on July 27, and the Dagens Nyheter on July 28,
2000.
The program caused concern in countries where I had been posted, primarily Peru, where I
had just completed my assignment as Swedish Ambassador. The Fujimori government
decided to withdraw the order that I had just received and launched its own investigation. A
few months later, Fujimori himself fled his country, accused of serious crimes. Several of his
ministers and other high ranking officials were brought to justice. The transitional
government, a well as the following regular government, reexamined “my case”. A widely

held conclusion was that the attack on me was in reality due to my, and Sweden´s, clear stand
on democracy and human rights violations in Peru of those days.
In August, 2001, the new Foreign Minister of Peru, in a speech to my successor at an official
event at the Ministry in Lima, said: “I cannot let this occasion go by without recalling your
predecessor, Ambassador Ulf Lewin, a great friend of Peru and the Peruvians. His period will
also be remembered for his persistent commitment to the democratic values and the principles
of human rights. I wish you to transmit to Ambassador Lewin the gratitude of Peru and of this
House.” – This was a remarkably clear message in diplomatic language transmitting that there
were no accusations whatsoever against my person.
In December, 2001, the Peruvian Foreign minister himself phoned me at the Swedish Foreign
Ministry, informing me that the President of the Republic was just about to sign a Presidential
decree by which I was re-awarded the highest order of Peru. He regretted the time delay,
explaining that he had been anxious that the due formal process first be concluded. The
Decree signed by the President and the Foreign Minister was published in the official paper El
Peruano later that month.
Summing up: I perfectly agree with the basic purpose of the TV program investigating and
condemning looting and illegal trade in antiquities. I am fully against international trade in
such objects and have a deep respect and love for pre-Columbian cultures. But in this specific
case, the reporter used my name in a dishonest way to create sensation to the extent that
attention was drawn away from the real matter and resulting in tremendous personal suffering
to me and my family.
The tragedy in a case like this is that it is not possible for a victim of a smear-campaign to get
the corresponding media space and attention for the publishing of the final outcome clearing
his or her name. People tend to remember the original smearing headlines but not to notice the
outcome rehabilitating the accused. In my case, it is most frustrating that a matter concluded
in 2000-2001 and basically referring to the 1960´s, still pops up making people that do not
know me question my honesty.
/Ulf Lewin