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Swedish corruption rise 'a myth': expert

Swedish corruption rise 'a myth': expert

Published: 10 Oct 2011 10:27 GMT+02:00
Updated: 10 Oct 2011 10:27 GMT+02:00

“More and more people allege that Sweden has become more corrupt in the wake of the 'corruption scandals' which have broken in recent years,” Claes Sandgren, a professor in civil law at Stockholm University and chair of the Anti-corruption Institute, wrote in an opinion article published on Monday in the Dagens Nyheter (DN) newspaper.

“But there's a catch; neither recent studies nor crime statistics show that this is true.”

Sandgren cites a number of Swedish and international reports all of which, he argues, point to Sweden's reputation for low-levels of corruption being well-deserved.

Transparency International, for example, has consistently ranked Sweden among the least corrupt countries in its annual listing. In the group's most recent ranking, Sweden placed fourth.

According to the World Bank's “Governance Indicators”, Sweden ranks second among 27 European countries when it comes to regulatory quality and third in terms of control of corruption.

In addition, 93 percent of respondents to a survey of Swedish local politicians and civil servants conducted by Linnaeus University said that abuse of power in their municipality had decreased or remained unchanged.

Official statistics from Sweden's National Council on Crime Prevention (Brottsförebyggande rådet - Brå) also point to concerns about increasing corruption being a “mirage”, according to Sandgren, as the number of bribery convictions has dropped from 77 in 2006 down to three in 2010.

“The creation of the myth has its roots in a large number of people's own interest in overstating how widespread corruption is,” Sandgren writes, citing the media, researchers, politicians, accountants, and commentators who stand to gain more “attention, resources, and assignments” if corruption is seen to be on the rise.

He points to Sweden's 250-year history of building up institutions designed to minimise corrution in the country.

“A single corruption scandal can leave scratches on this edifice, nothing more,” he writes.

Nevertheless he argues that Swedes should continue to be “on our guard” against corruption.

“Not least the construction sector should clean up its act and there are, among other things, conflicts of interest in municipalities and friendly relationships that aren't necessarily illegal but can certainly damage trust,” writes Sandgren.

He suggests holding companies' top management responsible for bribery crimes in a way similar to how they are held responsible for workplace accidents according to Swedish employment protection laws.

In addition, Swedish municipalities need to do a better job applying rules which prevent them from purchasing goods or services from companies where a representative has been convicted of bribery crimes.

“Considering that public sector assignments are critical for certain companies, frequent use of these rules could have a great effect,” argues Sandgren.

The Anti-corruption Institute was founded in 1923 and falls under the auspices of the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise (Svenskt Näringsliv) and trade group Svensk Handel.

TT/The Local/dl (news@thelocal.se)

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Your comments about this article

11:32 October 10, 2011 by RobinHood
Was this survey conducted before Juholt got caught with his sticky fingers in the tax payers' cookie jar?
12:35 October 10, 2011 by OUIJA
"The anti-corruption watchdog Transparency International has once again ranked Sweden as one of the cleanest places in the world to do business. While Swedes are proud of this reputation, three national icons--Ikea, Saab and the royal family--have all faced allegations of corruption this year. Recent headlines have provoked a national debate about whether the Scandinavian nation's reputation is really deserved."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-11949956

"Sweden is a country which is ranked tops in governance and corruption rankings, meaning relatively a clean country. Infact by some measures the cleanest country by some measures.

"This paper says reality is different. There have been some recent cases of corruption in Sweden. THis has led to a larger % of people believing that Sweden is corrupt and public officials work for their own gains. Moreover, you need to know them to get your work done…."

http://mostlyeconomics.wordpress.com/2011/03/18/how-public-perceives-corruption-case-of-sweden/
12:52 October 10, 2011 by Not Dumb
'Not least the construction sector should clean up its act and there are, among other things, conflicts of interest in municipalities and friendly relationships that aren't necessarily illegal but can certainly damage trust,' writes Sandgren.

The problem is HOW ONE DEFINES CORRUPTION!!!! In Sweden, the standard UN or US definitions of corruption ARE NOT USED -- CORRUPTION IN SWEDEN IS DEFINED AS BRIBERY!!!!

When one has 'money under the table' that is taken by politicians from within their own Kommun's budgets and used for self-serving reasons, THIS VERY OFTEN ISN'T BRIBERY under Swedish law, MEANING IT ISN'T LEGALLY CORRUPTION!!! AND, IN ORDER TO PROVE CORRUPTION, ONE MUST ALSO PROVE 'INTENT' TO COMMIT THE CRIME HERE!!!

The 'facts and statements' surrounding this article are, in my opinion, an exercise in semantics, one which avoids the reality of a corrosive, deep, and disturbing problem! IMHO, if one were to use a US definition of corruption, the reality here would be infinitely more apparent!

IE, the so-called "Anti-corruption Institute" referred to in the article is named in Swedish the IMM, the Institutet Mot Mutor (Institute Against Bribery)! Here is a link to their website http://www.institutetmotmutor.se/

In the US we have the crime of 'bribery' and another crime called 'corruption'; but, in Sweden, the definition of Corruption is Bribery, 'MUTOR'!!!!

Sandgren is a good man, but the facts are the facts, and what he alludes to in the building sector in relation to the Kommuns (municipalities) is, IMHO, indeed a 'CORRUPTION' problem if one uses a US or UN definition of the term!!!!

End of conversation -- punkt slut!
14:18 October 10, 2011 by nlidukdese
Every Swede seems to know that Sweden scores well on the Transparency International index. But none of them seem to know that what this index measures is not the occurrence of corruption, but the perceived occurrence of corruption.

With Swedes collectively burying their heads in the sand, it's hard to perceive anything.
14:57 October 10, 2011 by Tysknaden
Maybe... this "expert" ist corrupted?
15:02 October 10, 2011 by jacquelinee
hahahahahahahahahahhahahahhahahhahahhah Best joke I have heard all year.

I guess it is because no one records negativity (i.e. medical malpractice claims) let alone prosecutes them. If it aint on paper, it doesn't exist.
18:18 October 10, 2011 by Not Dumb
I had to return to this story as the article ITSELF is misleading, Sandgren acknowledges that if one includes the kind of crime that we english speakers term corruption, then SWEDEN'S CORRUPTION IS IMMENSE! The following excerpt from the DN piece Sandgren wrote ( http://www.dn.se/debatt/inget-tyder-pa-att-sverige-blivit-ett-mer-korrupt-land )highlights his own words on this...

Here's the original Swedish, followed by Google translate's version --

"En vilseledande faktor är vidare att begreppet "korruption" har kommit att korrumperas på så vis att snart sagt allt mygel av tjänstemän betecknas som korruption. Ett färskt exempel är den tjänsteman vid Göteborgs spårvägar som hade låtit företaget betala hennes villabygge. Är det rimligt att ett sådant bedrägeri slås upp i medierna som "ännu en korruptionsskandal"? Knappast. Begreppet korruption får mening bara om det förbehålls oegentligheter som kan påverka beslutsfattande, såsom vid en upphandling, ett bygglov, ett bidrag, en inspektion, ett läkarbesök och så vidare. Sträcks det ut till att omfatta bedrägerier, stölder, förskingringar och andra tillgreppsbrott är korruptionen i Sverige ofantlig."

Google Translate -- "A misleading factor is that the term 'corruption' has become corrupted in the sense that almost all graft by officials described as corruption. A recent example is the officer at Göteborg trams which had allowed the company to pay her apartment building. Is it reasonable that such fraud is looked up in the media as "yet another corruption scandal"? Hardly. The term corruption has meaning only if it is reserved irregularities that may affect decision-making, such as when a contract, a building permit, a grant, an inspection, a doctor and so on. Stretched it out to include fraud, theft, embezzlement and other acquisitive crime is corruption in Sweden immense."

AGAIN, the reason Sandgren can say corruption is so low is that Swedish Law has a very narrow definition of 'corruption' -- 'bribery'! But, if one includes what we commonly call corruption in the US, UK, and Canada, then he admits the problem is "IMMENSE"! As I said in my earlier quote, #3, IMHO this isn't a corruption question but one of semantics!

Sweden does indeed seem to have an 'immense' corruption problem!

Now, truly the end of conversation -- punkt slut.
20:58 October 10, 2011 by OUIJA
"More and more people allege that Sweden has become more corrupt in the wake of the 'corruption scandals' which have broken in recent years.

"But there's a catch; neither recent studies nor crime statistics show that this is true," says Claes Sandgren.

Well, well. I do believe that the "expertise" of Mr. Sandgren has to be investigated, because obviously he is talking more about bribery and not about the whole concept of corruption, which, by definition is dishonesty: breach of trust, bribery, bribing, crime, crookedness, demoralization, exploitation, extortion, fiddling, fraud, fraudulency, graft, jobbery, malfeasance, misrepresentation, nepotism, on the take, payoff, payola, profiteering, racket, shadiness, shady deal, shuffle, skimming, squeeze*, unscrupulousness, venality.

So there is no corruption growing in Sweden, right? That takes me way back when Leif Pagrotsky was the Minister of Trade around 1998. During a conference about trade, Pagrotsky attacked ferociously the corruption of many countries in the world, including Spain, Italy, Turkey and others. One Spaniard got fed up with his rantings and without hesitating asked him: "Excuse me Pagrotsky. Is there corruption in Sweden? Pagrotzky turned red, yellow and green. "Well…Hmm…well. I have to recognize that we do have corruption in Sweden", said a minister of the government of Göran Persson. After that, he dedicated more than five minutes while looking for excuses to give so he could exonerate Sweden from the corruption stigma. That was 1998.

The apartment buildings that collapse in Turkey during earthquakes are widely known as "bribe buildings". In Africa, there are bridges with no roads to connect them. Bofors has a nice record on the subject. IKEA and the Royal family have been targeted and just recently the leader of the Social Democrats, Juholt, is being investigated because he committed serious crimes related to corruption.

Acts of dishonesty committed by the Swedish municipalities, politicians, private companies, government departments, etc, etc. The list is extensive and juicy.

Bribery, of course, is the most widespread form of corruption, and corporate strategies for dealing with bribe requests vary.

"The list of countries that have been politically or economically crippled by corruption continues to grow, and businesses with long-term interests abroad will ultimately be harmed by any plans that include bribery", says professor F. Nichols, a true expert about this theme.

It does not matter that Sweden enjoys a 9.2% in the index of less corrupted countries in the world, sharing the fourth place with Finland. Denmark holding number one position.

The index surely will change by next year and I would not be surprised how many places Sweden will fall.

Poor Sweden. Almost always in the hands of blind people.
15:36 October 14, 2011 by tadchem
There is a difference between becoming more prevalent and becoming more visible. Corruption is old and common. What is new is the harsh light of Information Age technology that purges the shadows in which corruption likes to hide.
06:22 October 16, 2011 by Imperor
Systembolaget is certainly one of the most corrupt instances we have in Sweden.

Some friends started a wine-firm about ten years ago and could not get a single product in until they sent a sommelier to Italy... The other stuff that was revealed were just the tip of the iceberg and part of a all-encompassing scheme. As usual the real crooks took the opportunity to get rid of some less agreeable associates and are now making more money "under the table" than ever.
00:01 March 18, 2013 by LookerOn
I found this article by searching for 'widespread corruption in Sweden' and am surprised to see that this is from over one year ago. I lived in Sweden for 14 years until 2006 when I moved back to my home country Ireland, but have continued to follow current affairs in Sweden. I have been surprised by the amount of corruption in the years I have been gone and have been informed by watching programs such as Uppdraggranskning on SVT. There are so many cases presented on that program that I find it unbelievable that this 'expert' can find no grounds what so ever for his denial of a perceived rise in corruption in recent times. One big aspect in Uppdraggranskning has been the kommungranskarna and from the scandals in Gothenburg to Kristinehamn and to a very recent case of Leksands kommun - these are so big that they can't be ignored. In Leksand for example the local kommun has basically given away kommunal property (two ice halls) to a private company - Leksands ice hockey association, LIF. The same ice halls are now 'rented' back by the kommun for large sums of tax papers money. The kommun have been trying to support LIF and maybe see that it is morally defensible to do this since large numbers of Leksand people would support the Leksand ice hockey team. However it is reprehensible and morally indefensible to be giving away large sums of tax papers money to private interests. LIF also received the gift of a kommunally owned 'fritids' holiday centre that was in fact making money for taxpayers. This was done in an attempt to provide a source of income for the cash strapped LIF - it wasn't enough, a few years after this 'donation' from the kommun the holiday centre was sold to private individuals, some of which are apparently high members of the LIF associations board!! You couldn't make it up, it is simply good old fashioned abuses of power and a case of dirty and illegal activity taking place between corrupt officials and private interests. This hoiliday centre is now making money for its new private owners who 'stole' it by abuses of power! The latest from Leksand is that the kommun is now closing schools and kintergartens and donating the savings once again to LIF.. I really can't understand how Swedes allow this to happen without some form of protest or demonstration - but what will be the cost to Swedish society if these corrupt individuals aren't stopped.. and soon! That Sweden and Scandinavia are not seen as corrupt is largely down to the lanuage barrier when very little of this would be put down in English. Therefore it is incumbent on 'patriotic' Swedes to try and get the word out about how beautiful Sweden with its fair and equal society is bit by bit getting destroyed by a small percentage of greedy and immoral individuals.
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