Who is Lisa Emelia Svensson and why did Jeffrey Epstein claim to be in contact with her?

Lisa Emelia SvenssonPhoto: United Nations Conference on Trade and Development / Flickr

Emails revealed on July 31, 2020 appeared to name Swedish diplomat Lisa Emelia Svensson in the ongoing Ghislaine Maxwell case. Here’s our deep-dive on the situation.

Secret documents unveiled, appearing to name Lisa Emelia Svensson

Unsealed documents in the ongoing Ghislaine Maxwell (b. 1961) case brought new allegations against the defendant and her ex-boyfriend, convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein (1953-2019).

Court files, including an alleged email exchange between Maxwell and Epstein from 2015, were revealed to the public on July 31, 2020 by a U.S. court. Maxwell’s lawyers had previously argued that she not been in contact with Epstein for over a decade.

The correspondence (which is an official part of court documentation in Maxwell’s ongoing case) includes the following email:

The text “i had lisa svenson the swedish ocean ambassador  yesteady she said no one on her ocean panel takes this stuff seriously and you would be welcoe to the ocean conferenec water conference etc.” seems to be from January 25, 2015.

“lisa svenson the swedish ocean ambassador” appears to refer to Swedish-native Lisa Emelia Svensson, who has held high-ranking positions at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and within the Swedish government.

Svensson and Maxwell’s ocean-related work

In this article, we will be addressing this alleged connection between Svensson with Epstein and Maxwell.

Let’s start with the apparent common denominator; the ocean.

Why the ocean?

Maxwell’s TerraMar Project

Maxwell was formerly the founder of a non-profit organization called The TerraMar Project, which supposedly dealt with raising awareness about and raising funds for oceanic environmental issues.

The TerraMar Project launched on September 26, 2012. 

We note that the TerraMar Project’s founding, and any affiliations with it, came after Epstein’s first charges were made public. This, in turn, followed Epstein and Maxwell’s close relationship which was documented many times through social appearances and photographs.

Upon being established, TerraMar was presented at prestigious conferences, apparently had high-profile founding citizens like Richard Branson and Sylvia Earle, and received a “commitment to action” from the Clinton Global Initiative.

The non-profit’s financial dealings were obscure.

TerraMar received $196,000 in public support, $549,093 in loans from Maxwell, and paid out over $600,000 dollars. The project’s tax filings provide no names of firms or individuals (nor information whether they were in the ocean activism realm at all) that were allotted money, though.

TerraMar has been cited as dabbling more in “reputation management” for Maxwell, following Epstein’s then-public crimes, rather than actually engaging in ocean activism.

TerraMar officially shut down following Epstein’s July 2019 criminal charges.

TerraMar’s alleged leaders, apart from Maxwell

An alleged former TerraMar board member is Amir Dossal.

According to his LinkedIn, Dossal worked at the UN in various capacities from 1993-2010 and sporadically after. From 1999-2010, he was the Executive Director of the UN Office for Partnerships.

He currently works as President and CEO of the Global Partnerships Forum (GPF).

One of the GPF’s partner organizations, as currently listed on its official website, is the TerraMar Project.

Dossal’s LinkedIn also names him as Champion for the UN Safe Ground Campaign from 2019-present.

He was previously listed as Co-Chair of the “Sustainable Oceans Alliance” (apparently since re-named or continued as the “Ocean Sanctuary Alliance“).

Dossal also appears on the board of directors of “unique non-profit” The Humpty Dumpty Institute, alongside Mark Epstein, Jeffrey Epstein’s brother. 

Dossal is named on a handful of other non-profit and for-profit organizations’ boards as well.

Dossal’s Twitter bio, at the time of writing, reads: “President, Global Partnerships Forum, Co-Founder, Ocean Sanctuary Alliance, Co-Founder, Blockchain Commission @PartnershipsOrg #UN @OceansAlliance @UN #SDGs”. 

Dossal’s social media activity includes tweeting Prince Andrew in 2018 (and having his tweet liked by Prince Andrew) – for reference, a photo of Maxwell, Prince Andrew, and a minor had been publicly circulating since 2011 – and posting a photo on Facebook with who would appear to be Kevin Spacey in 2012, before allegations against the actor emerged.

Another alleged former TerraMar board member is Steven Haft.

blog post on the Disruptor Awards’ webpage from 2017 reads: “[Haft] currently serves on the Board of Terramar, the United Nations NGO which lead the effort in 2015 to pass the Clean Oceans provision of the Sustainable Development Goals. He is also an Advisory Board Member of the Global Partnerships Forum, the most prolific host of initiatives between business, civil society, and the United Nations.” 

This is quite a description of TerraMar.

Haft is the Senior Vice President at Time Inc. He is well-known for producing Dead Poets Society.

Haft is also currently listed as an advisor, as stated in the blog post above, for Dossal’s GPF.

And now, back to Lisa Emelia Svensson.

Who is Lisa Emelia Svensson?

Born in 1974, Svensson was raised in western Sweden.

Her educational and professional background, according to her LinkedIn at the time of writing, is:

  • 2000: She received her Master’s in Business Administration and Human and Economic Geography from the University of Gothenburg‘s School of Business, Economics and Law.
  • 2002: She received her PhD in Economics/Organizational Theory from the University of Gothenburg.
  • 2000-2002: She held a position as Project Leader at the Swedish Trade Council in New York.
  • 2003-2004: She was Desk Officer at the Office of Export Promotion and Internal Affairs of the Foreign Ministry in Stockholm.
  • 2004-2007: She was First Secretary at the Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C.
  • 2007-2008: She was a Diplomat-in-Residence at Johns Hopkins University in Washington D.C.
  • 2008-2009: She was an advisor at the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs.
  • 2009-2010: She was a Swedish National Expert, Sustainable Development for the European Commission.
  • 2010-2011: She was Deputy Director at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Sweden.
  • 2011-2012: She was Ambassador for Corporate Social Responsibility for the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • 2012-2015: She was Ambassador for Oceans, Seas, and Fresh Water at the Swedish Ministry of the Environment.
  • 2015-2016: She was Ambassador, Special Representative of the Minister for Foreign Affairs in Stockholm.
  • September 2016-present: She has been Director Ocean and Marine Programme at United Nation Environment in Nairobi.

Lisa Emelia Svensson’s Twitter bio at the time of writing reads: “Ambassador, PhD, Swedish Diplomat, Passion for Ocean – Curiosity is everything – [private opinion and perspective]”.

In an interview from April 14, 2020, for non-profit Swedes Worldwide, which calls her a member, Svensson’s profession is written as Diplomat.

Nonetheless, Svensson’s current employer(s), though the UN is listed on her LinkedIn and her profession is listed as Diplomat on her Twitter and in the aforementioned interview, remain(s) unclear.

Why is Svensson’s job as of now unclear?

Svensson and the UNEP: August

We sent a general inquiry to some of Svensson’s employment partners in August. Our inquiry pertained to the alleged ocean panel Svensson may have been on in January of 2015, any conferences Svensson may have invited Maxwell to, and any contact in general Svensson may have had with Epstein and Maxwell.

One of the employers we contacted was the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) on August 3. The UNEP helped provide insight into Svensson’s current employment.

On August 4, the UNEP told us: “Ms. Svensson was head of the oceans branch at UN Environment Programme (UNEP) from 2016 to 2019. The alleged interaction with Mr. Epstein happened when Ms. Svensson was with the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. For further comment on that, please reach out to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs or to their embassy in Washington DC.

That’s puzzling.

Although the UNEP stated that Svensson’s employment as head of the oceans branch ended in 2019, her LinkedIn headline as of August 6, 2020, still read: “Global Director for Ocean, United Nation Environment”.

And it appears that Svensson actively uses LinkedIn.

A timely Wikipedia page edit

Svensson’s Wikipedia page, up until August 4, 2020, read that she “serves as Global Director of the UNEP office in Nairobi”.

Her Wikipedia page was edited on August 4 at 9:40 by user “Livingsustainably2020”, a few hours before we received the UNEP’s official response.

The user had two total edits: 1) it updated the Executive Director on the UNEP’s Wikipedia Page on August 3, and 2) it updated Svensson’s page to read that she was formerly instead of currently employed at the UN on Aug 4.

The “Livingsustainably2020” user account appears to have been deleted the same day, on August 4.

Svensson and the UNEP: October

The UNEP does not currently list Ms. Svensson as part of its senior management team online.

On October 12, 2020, a UNEP spokesperson further clarified Svensson’s status at the UNEP.

Ms. Svensson is on special leave without pay. Her title was Coordinator, Marine and Coastal Ecosystems Branch, Ecosystems Division. Since is she on Special Leave Without Pay, she is currently not performing this role.”

So, why does Svensson’s LinkedIn headline still read “Global Director for Ocean, United Nation Environment”? It remains unclear.

Again, her LinkedIn account isn’t inactive; it appears that Svensson has been actively using her LinkedIn as recently as early October, 2020.

Was an official UN investigation related to Svensson’s departure from the UNEP?

The reasons for Lisa Emelia Svensson’s alleged departure from the UNEP in 2019 also remain unclear.

In 2018, PassBlue published an alleged email sent to UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres, UNEP Executive Director Erik Solheim and the senior management of UNEP and many others in the wider UN system from what appear to be disgruntled employees of the UNEP at the time.

The alleged email seems to be composed of a long list of complaints against former Norwegian Minister and then-Executive Director of the UNEP Erik Solheim, which include a mention of Svensson:

In contrast, you, Sir, have approved that your friend, a D1, Lisa Svensson can work from Europe, because for personal reasons she does not wish to work in Nairobi. Her big office in Nairobi remains vacant with her name and organisational equipment while the same has to be provided again by another office in Europe. She leads the marine team remotely as the rest of the staff under her responsibility are in Nairobi.

Other complaints outlined in the alleged email were Solheim’s excessive global travels and other breaches of internal UN regulations.

When asked whether they could confirm this alleged email, the UN spokesperson told us: “We can’t comment on the authenticity of an anonymous email, but can confirm that UNEP’s official travel was the subject of an audit by the Office of Internal Oversight Services in 2018.”

An official investigation, corresponding to many of the points from the alleged email published by PassBlue, was carried out by the Internal Audit Division of the UN’s Office of Internal Oversight Services (OIOS). The report is dated November 16, 2018, and titled “Audit of official travel at the United Nations Environment Programme”. It can be found and downloaded on the official OIOS website here.

A section of the report reads:

Two managers whose posts were based in Nairobi were allowed to work out of UNEP’s office in Paris under teleworking arrangements. The managers explained that the arrangements were authorized due to family considerations. However, OIOS established that the teleworking arrangements were not in accordance with ST/SGB/2003/4 on FWA, as explained below.

The managers’ identities are left anonymous in the official report, but we asked the UNEP spokesperson if they could confirm whether Svensson was allowed to work from Europe and not Kenya at any time?

They told us: “The staff member was permitted to work from Europe under a telecommuting compact signed with the then-Executive Director. This arrangement ended on 28 September 2018.”

This arrangement was, according to the official report, found to be a breach of UN regulations.

Erik Solheim was asked to resign by UN Secretary-General António Guterres following the investigation. Solheim left the UNEP in late November of 2018.

Solheim (who has 11.7K followers and is following 181 people) currently follows Svensson on Instagram. It’s not clear whether she follows Solheim because her account is private.

After Solheim’s departure, Tanzanian-born Joyce Msuya served as Deputy Executive Director of the UNEP from November 2018. Danish-born Inger Andersen was appointed Executive Director of the UNEP in 2019.

When asked whether Dr. Svensson’s departure from being head of the UNEP’s oceans branch from 2019 is tied with the Erik Solheim investigation, the UNEP spokesperson told us:

The staff member stopped serving as Coordinator of the Marine and Freshwater Branch when she took special leave without pay.

“Special leave without pay”

What does taking special leave without pay mean? The UN Human Resources website gives us more information, reading:

Is it possible to take Special Leave without pay (SLWOP) for personal reasons? For how long and what reasons are acceptable?

Special leave without pay is granted at the discretion of the Secretary-General. Special leave can normally be authorized for up to two years. The acceptable reasons for special leave are advance studies and research in the interest of the United Nations, extended illness, child care, family support, mandatory military service, and other. For eligibility requirements, please refer to staff rule 5.3.

The reasons for Svensson taking special leave without pay remain unclear.

Why the discrepancies?

The UNEP spokesperson told us that “UNEP does not control staff members’ LinkedIn pages.”

The UN’s official Staff Rules reads, in the “Specific instances of prohibited conduct” section: “Staff members shall not intentionally misrepresent their functions, official title or the nature of their duties to Member States or to any entities or persons external to the United Nations.

The reason for the discrepancies between the UNEP’s and Svensson’s presentation of her role at the UNEP also remain unclear.

Svensson is also not currently listed on the Swedish Ministry for Foreign Affairs’ Stockholm Diplomatic List from July 17, 2020. But, her Twitter bio and recent interviews have stated she is a Diplomat.

So, it remains unclear overall what Svensson’s current job status is.

Official responses related to Ghislaine Maxwell and Lisa Emelia Svensson

Back to the original email text which appears to have been sent from Epstein to Maxwell on January 25, 2015 (“i had lisa svenson the swedish ocean ambassador  yesteady she said no one on her ocean panel takes this stuff seriously and you would be welcome to the ocean conferenec water conference etc.“).

In regards to any contact Svensson, Epstein, and Maxwell may have had, the UNEP told us on August 4: “Ms. Svensson has informed us that while head of UNEP’s oceans branch, she did not invite Ms. Maxwell to any conference or meeting.

We also contacted the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs on August 4 for comment.

The Ministry responded the same day, stating: “I kindly have to refer you to the embassy of Sweden in Washington with your questions.

Also on August 4, the Embassy of Sweden in Washington D.C. on August 4 told us: “As the co-host of an ocean conference held in Washington, DC in 2013, the Embassy was in contact with Ghislaine Maxwell as she was invited to speak being the founder of an environmental organization. We do not have information on any other conferences or meetings.

Swedish media site Expressen reported on July 31 that Lisa Emelia Svensson denied the statement in the unveiled email.

Maxwell, Svensson, and the ocean

Another common denominator, apart from the ocean itself, between Maxwell and Svensson appears to be lobbying for the ocean’s inclusion in the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

What are the SDGs? The Sustainable Development Goals were introduced in 2015 and succeeded the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The UNDP explains:

“Millennium Development Goals: In September 2000, leaders of 189 countries gathered at the United Nations headquarters and signed the historic Millennium Declaration, in which they committed to achieving a set of eight measurable goals that range from halving extreme poverty and hunger to promoting gender equality and reducing child mortality, by the target date of 2015.”

The Rio+20 conference (the United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development) in Rio de Janeiro, June 2012, galvanized a process to develop a new set of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which will carry on the momentum generated by the MDGs and fit into a global development framework beyond 2015.

In July 2014, the UN General Assembly Open Working Group (OWG) proposed a document containing 17 goals to be put forward for the General Assembly’s approval in September 2015. This document set the ground for the new SDGs and the global development agenda spanning from 2015-2030.”

Before the SDGs were officially voted in during September 2015, the ocean was not on the list of MDGs.

Maxwell and Svensson shared a goal to get the ocean on the SDG list. They actively worked on this goal. In this capacity, the two women had mutual acquaintances. 

We’ve compiled a timeline of Maxwell and Svensson’s ocean and SDGs-related activities. We note, again, that these activities follow Epstein’s first round of run-ins with the law being made public, as well as Epstein and Maxwell’s close relationship being well-documented through social appearances and photographs.

  • June 20, 2013: Maxwell, late Ambassador Stuart Beck, and former TerraMar board member Amir Dossal hold an informal meeting at the UN to talk about adding the ocean to the new list of SDGs.
  • June 23, 2013: Maxwell accompanies Beck to make an official appeal to the UN General Assembly to include the ocean in the 2015 UN SDGs. 
  • October 2013: Accounts “@oceansalliance” and “@HealthyOcean30” join Twitter. They appear to be aimed at getting the ocean on the UN’s 2015 SDG plan. Both currently link to (now non-existent) website oceansalliance.org in their bios.
  • December 3, 2013: Svensson tweets: “Ghislaine Maxwell: Ocean belongs to everyone ”Sign the ‘I Love the Oceans’ pledge @TerraMarProject”. The tweet is retweeted by Dossal.
  • January 7, 2014: Svensson tweets: “Take a look: The TerraMar Project a digital hub for the ocean founded by Ghislaine Maxwell @TerraMarProject”.
  • February 4, 2014: Maxwell is a speaker at the UN round table discussion: “Healthy Oceans and Seas: a way forward” as “Founder, The TerraMar Project”. She is warmly introduced by Dossal with the words: “I am now going to invite the person who has been the inspiration behind the Sustainable Oceans Alliance who really has something called TerraMar Project. She controls the oceans around the world. If you look up the website, you have the option to buy a part of the ocean through her. And really the Sustainable Oceans Alliance came together at the insistence of one person who is in the room … his name is Steven Haft, where is Steven? … Steven has been the passionate person behind the Oceans Alliance saying we need to do something and he got us together, Ambassador [Stuart] Beck and I and with Ghislaine Maxwell and we set up the Oceans Alliance. And we are very greatful to Steven for his support. And therefore I invite my dear friend Ghislaine Maxwell to tell us how we can own the oceans.” Find the video of the introduction and Maxwell speaking at the UN on this occassion here.
  • [The email appearing to name Svensson is sent from Epstein to Maxwell on January 25, 2015.]
  • March 5, 2015: Dossal and the aforementioned Twitter account “@HealthyOceans20” tweet a photo of an event held at the UN by the aforementioned Oceans Alliance, which was inspired by and set up with Maxwell and Haft.
  • March 24, 2015: Per Thöresson, former Sweden UN Ambassador, tweets a photo of Dossal and Svensson speaking on the same panel. The tweet reads: “Just addressed the meeting on the @OceanSDG.” The tweet is retweeted by Dossal, Svensson, and “@oceansalliance”. On June 3, the tweet is retweeted by “@HealthyOceans30” with a since-deleted account “@OceanSDG” also tagged.
  • April 6-10, 2015: Svensson is a panelist at the UN’s “Meeting of the United Nations Open-ended Informal Consultative Process on Oceans and the Law of the Sea” as “Ambassador for Oceans, Seas and Fresh Water, Sweden”.
  • July 27, 2015: An ocean-activism-related article by Ghislaine Maxwell, titled When the Oceans Failed, is published on Medium. Lisa Emelia Svensson gives it a “clap” reaction.
  • August 24, 2015: Svensson tweets a photo of the then-Swedish Prime Minister speaking at the World Water Week in Stockholm. She tags “@OceanSDG”. 
  • September 25-27, 2015: The UN General Assembly adopts a 2030 Agenda for Sustainable development with 17 new SDGs. Goal #14 is: “Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”.
  • November 7-18, 2016: Svensson is listed as a participant at the UN “Framework Convention on Climate Change” as “Coordinator, UN Environment, Marine and Coast European Commission – DG Trade”. 

We also reached out to Dossal for comment via the Global Partnerships Forum and Ocean Sanctuary Alliance. We didn’t receive a response.

So, what was/is going on?

We’re left with questions. A lot of questions about obscure organizations and questionable connections, among other things.

Here’s one.

What’s broken: social sanctions or social norms?

A short timeline of allegations against Maxwell and Epstein

For your reference, here’s a shortened timeline of the Epstein and Maxwell cases.

1990: Epstein purchases a mansion in Palm Beach, Florida – the site where he was accused by multiple women of sexual abuse and prostitution.

1990s-2000s: Epstein and Maxwell allegedly sexually abuse and force prostitution on underaged women, who have accused them of trafficking to powerful men. During this period, Epstein and Maxwell frequently appear and are photographed on the New York elite social scene.

2005: A 14-year-old girl and her parents report Epstein to Florida police. Investigators begin a probe by speaking to alleged victims and witnesses.

2006: Epstein is charged with unlawful sex acts with a minor.

2007: Epstein strikes a plea deal to avoid federal sex-trafficking charges and instead pleads guilty to two charges of soliciting prostitution, once of which was with a minor.

2008: Following the plea deal, Epstein is sentenced to 18 months in jail.

July 2009: Epstein is released five months early and registers as a sex offender.

September 2009: Epstein’s plea deal is made public.

2013: Maxwell is photographed at a Stop the Trafficking of People (STOP) event in New York.

2009-2019: Dozens of accusers come forward against Epstein. Epstein and his legal team first attempt to settle cases outside of courts.

July 6, 2019: Epstein is arrested on sex trafficking and abuse charges.

July 8, 2019: Epstein pleads not guilty.

August 10, 2019: Prior to his trial, Epstein is found dead in his prison cell.

August 29, 2019: The Epstein case is dismissed due to his death, with plans to pursue co-conspirators ongoing.

July 2, 2020: After spending four years mostly out of the public view, Maxwell is arrested in her house (purchased fully in cash shortly before) in New Hampshire.

July 14, 2020: Maxwell pleads not guilty and is denied bail as a flight risk. She faces, and denies, charges which include: conspiracy to entice minors and enticement of a minor, conspiracy to travel to engage in illegal sex acts, conspiracy to transport minors, transportation of a minor with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and perjury.

July 31, 2020: Some, not all, case documents are released to the public under the order of U.S. District Judge Loretta Preska. Part of the unveiled documentation is the email exchange which appears to name Svensson.

October 2020: Maxwell’s lawyers continue to attempt keeping a 2016 deposition, which contains “numerous personal, sensitive, and allegedly incriminatory questions” secret.

For our readers…

What are your thoughts on this case? Write to us and let us know.

As always, if you have a tip you’d like to share, feel free to contact us (anonymously if you wish).

The cover photo of this article, by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, was retrieved from here per CC BY-SA 2.0.

Source: Norway Today


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