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Swedish trade minister resigns

Published: 14 Oct 2006 13:20 GMT+02:00
Updated: 14 Oct 2006 13:20 GMT+02:00

Sweden's trade minister Maria Borelius has resigned, prime minister Fredrik Reinfeldt has announced.

Speaking on Swedish Radio's Saturday interview, Reinfeldt revealed that he had spoken to Borelius on Saturday morning.

"We have agreed that she should resign," said the prime minister.

Borelius has also quit as a member of parliament for the Moderates. She explained her decision in a press release:

"The reason is the pressure that has been put on those closest to me. My family, my friends, my neighbours and their children, business associates, relatives, even my children's friends, have been put under close scrutiny which means that normal family life has become impossible," she wrote.

Borelius had been in the job for just a week. But in that time she was hounded by the Swedish media.

First, it was revealed that she had not paid employer's tax for a nanny in the 90s. Then her failure to buy a TV licence was seized upon.

The final straw came on Friday when irregularities in a share trade were exposed, along with the fact that her homes are owned by a company based in the tax haven of Jersey.

According to Reinfeldt, he spoke with her first about the investigation into her private finances which would be carried out by the Moderates' lawyer. It was then that Borelius said she could not continue as minister.

Reinfeldt was asked if he had tried to persuade Borelius to change her mind.

"No, I didn't," he replied.

"It's clear that I bear some responsibility for choosing a person who has been seriously criticised."

He admitted that the criticism of Borelius was fiercer than he had expected. But Reinfeldt emphasised that the fuss around the ex-trade minister's affairs had not completely scuppered the flying start the new government needs.

Monday's budget presentation is the most important thing for the voters, said Reinfeldt.

He also said that it is better that a minister goes quickly if it is clear that the position is untenable.

Maria Borelius does not want to make any statement other than the press release, according to her press secretary.

The journalist, author and businesswoman was one of the big surprises in Fredrik Reinfeldt's government. But as the revelations began to hit the front pages, her political inexperience was evident.

She tried to head off the storm about her failure to pay tax on her nannies' wages by saying that she couldn't afford it at the time. However, that prompted further articles demonstrating that she and her husband earned over 16 million kronor in the 1990s, when the nannies were employed.

In a statement Göran Persson, Sweden's former prime minister and the leader of the Social Democrats, said that the decision came as no surprise:

"Less expected was the fact that she took the step herself, and that the prime minister did not react more strongly to remove her. Considering these widescale and reprehensible matters, her situation was impossible."

Maria Borelius has not been the only minister under fire in the last week. However, Fredrik Reinfeldt made it clear that Cecilia Stegö Chilò still has his support as culture minister.

But he admitted that he was not happy that she had not told him of the untaxed payments to her nanny before he appointed her.

"And I have expressed my disappointment about that," he said.

Stegö Chilò declined to comment to news agency TT on her colleague's resignation.

The Local (news@thelocal.se)

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