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Key Swedish ministers may lose their jobs

The jobs of Sweden’s defense and interior ministers were on the line Thursday over a huge leak of sensitive data that has rocked the fragile center-left government.

Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist and Interior Minister Anders Ygeman face claims that they knew the leak from the national transport agency had made the private data of millions of citizens accessible abroad but had failed to inform Prime Minister Stefan Lofven.

Ahead of a press conference by Lofven at 0830 GMT, Infrastructure Minister Anna Johansson was also coming under pressure in the media for her role in the scandal, though she has insisted she found out about the leak only later.

The scandal has blown up in recent weeks after it emerged that an entire database on Swedish drivers’ licenses was made available to technicians in the Czech Republic and Romania, with media reporting that the identities of intelligence agents may have been jeopardized.

The Swedish military also said information on its personnel, vehicles, and defense and contingency planning could have been included in the leak, although the transport agency denied having a register on military vehicles and said there was no indication the data had been “spread in an improper way.”

The leak stems from the transport agency’s hiring of IBM in 2015 to take over its IT operations.

IBM in turn used subcontractors in the Czech Republic and Romania — making the sensitive information accessible by foreign technicians who did not have security clearance.

Opposition parties on Wednesday signaled they were planning a censure motion to force the ministers out, and they together hold enough votes to do so.

They are not seeking the resignation of Lofven, who has headed a fragile Social Democrat-led coalition since 2014, but political pundits have not ruled out his departure over one of the largest breaches of government information in Sweden in decades.

Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Lofven leaves the European Council, in Brussels, following the European Union leaders summit on June 23, 2017. (Photo by AFP)

The transport agency’s director general Maria Agren resigned in January for undisclosed reasons, but she has since confessed to violating data handling and accepted a fine of 70,000 Swedish kronor (around 7,000 euros, 8,000 dollars).

Hultqvist and Ygeman reportedly found out about the leak last year, but the prime minister was only informed in January.

Johansson, who oversees the transport agency, said her former state secretary had known about the leak but kept the information hidden from her — triggering heavy criticism among opposition parties who said she should have known what was happening.

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