The Swedish intelligence service's James Bond-themed party contained all the ingredients 007 himself would approve of: martinis (shaken, not stirred), casino tables, a gala dinner, and special guests, including the head of the UK's MI5, Jonathan Evans.
However, it has since emerged that the lavish event cost 5.3 million Swedish krona ($992,000) and Sapo, Sweden's intelligence service, is now struggling to explain the expense, especially as the party took place after budget cuts.
"This was a unique and extraordinary time," General Anders Thornberg, the head of Sapo, told Sweden's Dagens Nyheter newspaper. Referring to the unprecedented terrorist threats and attacks targeting Sweden in the years before the party, he added: "We thought that we needed a special gathering for the whole security police team."
Islamic extremist groups were suspected of plotting against Sweden in 2010; one man was killed and two were injured in a suicide bombing in Stockholm in December that year. "We'd been subjected to extreme pressure," Thornberg said.
Embarrassing questions have now been raised about Sapo's spending habits. Critics have pointed out that the agency was in breach of public spending rules because it failed to invite competitive bids for the event. Thornberg also conceded that Sapo had wrongly demanded VAT refunds worth up to £96,000 ($188,000) after the party.
The disclosures have prompted the former Sapo chief, who organised the party, to apologise. Anders Danielsson told Dagens Nyheter: "I take responsibility for everything. If it's wrong, it's wrong: It will be sorted."
It is the latest in a series of scandals involving Swedish government bodies throwing parties with taxpayer funds. Earlier this month, the Ministry of Enterprise was asked to submit documents concerning its 2011 Christmas bash, which it had tried to write off as a "seminar activity" to avoid paying VAT.
The Federation of Strategic Research was also found to have spent around one million krona of research funds to celebrate its 15th birthday.
- IndependentBy Tony Paterson