• Sweden's news in English

Swedish mob gets 'savvy' as pressure mounts

7 Jan 2013, 15:46

Published: 07 Jan 2013 15:46 GMT+01:00

Sweden runs a multi-authority operation against organized crime since 2009, with police cooperating with several state agencies to target and combat organized crime networks.

The Al Capone model of fighting gangs entails national and regional police agencies nominating names of suspected criminals to authorities such as the Tax Agency (Skatteverket), project coordinator Pia Bergman told The Local.

"Organized crime can be motivated by a lust for power but much of it is about making money," said Bergman, who works for the Tax Agency.

Much of the tax authorities work focuses on organized crimes networks that operate in industries perhaps not traditionally associated with the stereotypical image of the gun-touting, sex-selling mobster.

"There are many ties to unregistered labour, where there is a lot of money to be made," Bergman said.

The networks' activities range from sending out false invoices or faking disability or illness cases to cash in on welfare benefits, to operating in normal industries without paying taxes or social security contributions for the employees.

"The cases are becoming ever more complex," Bergman said.

"We get better at investigating them but that forces the criminal underworld to modify its tactics."

For example, some networks now use companies registered abroad in their operations. And as far as money laundering goes, the criminals have added several more steps to hide their trails.

"Ten years ago it was often a cash-in-hand, under-the-table operation, but now they are hiding behind documents, not only to make it look clean but to confuse us," Bergman said.

"The facades of organized crime are neater and at the same time more complex."

Since 2009, her unit has investigated 2,800 cases, pertaining to individuals or to specific groups.

According to a case review by regional newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad, many of the cases have links directly to well-known gangs such as Bandidos, Outlaws, Black Cobra and the Syndicate Legion.

Many of their more prominent members lead "bling-bling" lives of luxury, with nothing to show for it on official tax records.

"They're living large, out partying in the clubs but they don't pay a single krona in tax," said Bergman, who says articles about high-end nightclubs around Stockholm's Stureplan sometimes offer clues.

Once her unit opens an investigation, they often ask a court to issue a "payment guarantee" (betalningssäkring), which makes it harder for suspects to hide the cash once they learn they are under investigation.

Story continues below…

"I'd say we apply for it in 30 to 40 percent of cases, because if there is one thing we've learned it's that cash disappears quickly," Bergman said.

The aim is not only to recuperate outstanding taxes and disturb the money-motivated criminal networks, but to help legitimate Swedish companies that are forced to compete with illegal outfits.

"Last year we claimed back 1.3 billion kronor ($200 million). That money means a lot to taxpayers like you and me who would like to see it spent on better things. But I'd say serious companies also lose the same amount every year due to unfair competition."

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

Your comments about this article

18:18 January 7, 2013 by RobinHood
Considering Sweden's police, legislation and courts are hopelessly incapable of dealing with rampant organised crime, the tax office is probably the only part of Swedish society still equipped to deal with it.

In Sweden, tax offenders usually serve more time than violent criminals too.

It's a fine thing when a bunch of pencil-necked bean counters have to take over the role of defending the realm against the threat within.
Today's headlines
Champions League
Zlatan eyes hero's welcome to Malmö
Zlatan Ibrahimovic at a press conference ahead of the match. Photo: Björn Lindgren/TT

Zlatan eyes hero's welcome to Malmö

18 minutes ago

Sweden's star striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic is planning a glorious night when he returns to his native city to tackle his first club Malmö FF in the Champions League on Wednesday.

The Local List
Seven seriously silly Swedish sayings
What do a cow, beards and a dog have in common? Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/Leif R Jansson/TT

Seven seriously silly Swedish sayings

1 hour ago

Swedish is a tough language to learn, and strange proverbs about cows, dead dogs, and suspicious owls don't help. The Local has listed some of the seven silliest sayings to help you on the way.

Bacon back in Swedish hotels after huge uproar
Bacon is back on the menu of Comfort hotels in Sweden. Photo: Jonathan Hayward/AP/TT

Bacon back in Swedish hotels after huge uproar

13 hours ago

Petter Stordalen, the owner of the Nordic Choice Hotel Group, has performed a swift U-turn by re-introducing bacon at the chain's Swedish hotels, just a week after banning processed meat.

Refugee crisis
Sweden tightens rules to curb refugee numbers
Swedish Prime Minister Stefan Löfven and Deputy Prime Minister Åsa Romson. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Sweden tightens rules to curb refugee numbers

14 hours ago

UPDATED: Sweden has introduced a series of measures designed to stem the flow of asylum seekers into the country, after Prime Minister Stefan Löfven admitted the current high number is unsustainable.

Presented by Stockholm Business Region
How Stockholm solved a startup’s housing crisis
Photo: Tuukka Ervasti/imagebank.sweden.se

How Stockholm solved a startup’s housing crisis

17 hours ago

The Stockholm startup scene has become more international than ever, recruiting the best of global talent to join the city's booming tech cluster. But if foreigners can't find housing, startups worry, it's all for naught. Now the City of Stockholm has stepped in.

Eurovision 2016
How to get tickets for Eurovision in Stockholm
Sweden's Eurovision 2015 star Måns Zelmerlöw. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

How to get tickets for Eurovision in Stockholm

18 hours ago

Tickets for the hyped Eurovision Song Contest, to be held in Stockholm in May next year, are set to go on sale on Thursday. Find out how to grab a spot at the world's biggest music festival.

Refugee crisis
Bid to house refugees on Swedish cruise ships
Refugees could soon be accommodated on cruise ships like the one above. Photo: AP/TT

Bid to house refugees on Swedish cruise ships

18 hours ago

Refugees could be housed on Swedish cruise ships in a bid to ease the urgent asylum accommodation shortage as winter sets in, migration authorities have said.

Winter in Sweden presented by Kungsberget
Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget
Catch air at the Kungsberget snowpark. File photo: Kungsberget

Stockholm's secret ski resort: Kungsberget

22 hours ago

Not everyone enjoys 8-hour car trips or expensive train tickets just to hit the slopes. That's why so many Stockholmers opt for Kungsberget – the majestic mountain just two hours away. The Local finds out more.

Swedish Christmas gift sweeps up competition
A robotic vacuum cleaner. Photo: Thommy Tengborg/TT

Swedish Christmas gift sweeps up competition

22 hours ago

Sweden's cleanest Christmas gift of 2015 sucks. No, it really does. A Swedish retail research group predicts the most popular present underneath the tree this year will be a robotic vacuum cleaner.

Innocent 'terrorist' won't blame Swedish police
Boliden in northern Sweden. Photo: Cliff Karlsson/TT

Innocent 'terrorist' won't blame Swedish police

23 hours ago

A 22-year-old innocent man who was wrongly accused of planning a terror attack in Sweden has returned to the small northern town of Boliden – and insists he bears no grudge against Swedish authorities.

GUIDE: How to help refugees if you live in Sweden
IN PICTURES: New royal winter snaps of Sweden's Princess Estelle
Sponsored Article
Top five UK weekend getaways from Sweden
Mystery ice circle in Swedish river
Sponsored Article
Beaches, bikes, and buds: studying in Malmö
Blog updates

20 November

Editor’s blog, November 20th (The Local Sweden) »

"Hi readers, It has been a long and busy week for The Local as we reported on..." READ »


21 November

 (Joel Sherwood) »

"Sweden on high alert over threat of Republican candidates. The country raised its terror level to ‘high’..." READ »

Sponsored Article
Sweden must combat extremist 'mirage'
Property of the week: Kungsholmen, Stockholm
Stockholm film festival's top movies
Sponsored Article
How to figure out healthcare abroad
People-watching: November 20th-22nd
Ola Ericson/imagebank.sweden.se
Sponsored Article
Stockholm: the new epicentre of global leadership
Swedish King calls for bathtub ban
Susanne Walström/imagebank.sweden.se
Sponsored Article
‘Food choices in Sweden destroy forests in Asia’
Analysis & Opinion
Why you should care about Sweden raising its terror threat level
Sponsored Article
The cheapest and fastest way to transfer money
Stockholm's best international bars
Is this the best warning sign ever?
Why are more Swedes getting fat?
Sweden's tribute to Paris victims
What is Sweden's sexiest name?
VIDEO: Madonna's emotional tribute to Paris victims at Stockholm gig
Nine of the merriest Swedish Christmas fairs
Sweden cashes in on new kronor banknotes
How lonely are you in Sweden?
Roaming bear shot dead in Swedish village in Uppsala county
Seven tips for scoring firm friendships in Sweden
jobs available
PSD Media
PSD Media is marketing company that offers innovative solutions for online retailers. We provide modern solutions that help increase traffic and raise conversion. Visit our site at: