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Tax man steals millions

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10:42 CEST+02:00
A spate of book-cooking hit the Swedish headlines this week. A former tax man was busted for helping Swedes cheat on their declarations and in the wake of more than 100 bankruptcies linked to one known criminal, various authorities are joining forces to tighten regulations and enforce punishment surrounding Sweden's list of banned business people.

Dozens of bankruptcies have been traced to a 38 year old man with a violent history of robbery, attempted robbery, assault, receiving stolen goods, topped off by involvement in a mob-style murder. But Svenska Dagbladet reported that the man is free and continues to appear in bankruptcy cases.

The highest profile to date was the case of the Ada group of 130 companies. The 38 year old was on the board when that corporation announced its huge bankruptcy in 1998. He was under investigation at the time but not banned from doing business - and eventually time ran out to prosecute him for his economic involvement.

"An economic crime that is worth more than 100 billion crowns is no small crime. But the original prosecutor didn't get it," says Svante Olsson, a lawyer who has handled bankruptcies in which the 38-year old was involved.

Other characters in the Ada bankruptcy have also gone free.

Coincidentally, however, it was during the investigation of Ada's bankruptcy that the 38 year old sat in the back seat of a car in Stockholm when the driver was shot in the head. The man confessed to the murder and fled to Spain - but later changed his mind and was found not guilty by the courts.

"He sounds like a man who should be banned from doing business," said another lawyer to SvD.

The newspaper reported that Sweden's list of banned business people has increased four-fold since 1995 but Svante Olsson explained that "it doesn't cost very much" to continue doing business despite a ban. In addition the paper has discovered dozens of inaccuracies on the list.

Now, the Swedish National Economic Crimes Bureau, the Swedish National Tax Board, the Swedish Enforcement Administration and the Swedish Companies Registration Office have decided to team up and put some teeth in the laws regarding banned business people.

The tax office itself has its hands full at the moment with trouble closer to home - prosecuting a misbehaving former employee. The man is said to have lined his own pockets with millions of crowns by inflating deductions on cars and interest. In all the Swedish government lost out on 20-30 million crowns in taxes it should have collected.

Now, four thousand Swedes who got expert help with declarations from the man have been told that the help will cost them an audit and possible fines.

He almost got away with it, admitted Kenneth Söderberg, an investigator with the Swedish National Economic Crimes Bureau.

"Each deduction is less than the amount we usually double check," he told Stockholm City newspaper. The fraud was uncovered when an alert tax worker noticed hundreds of tax declarations were filled out with the same handwriting.

The false declarations are from 2004 but the bureau believes the man may have been running the scam for several years. He now faces up to six years behind bars for tax fraud.

It's not just the Swedish government getting scammed. Dagens Nyheter reports that the Swedish Consumer Agency is warning about new tricks victimizing mobile phone users.

One scam goes like this: A subscriber misses a phone call, but sees a number on the phone's display. When the subscriber calls that number, it is forwarded to a foreign location with an ridiculously high toll cost.

Another company sent out an SMS advertisement and those who answered were automatically and unknowingly signed up for a monthly chat service - then billed for it.

"We consider that misleading marketing," said the agency's Hans-Olov Dahlén, adding that consumers were advised to refute invoices from the company.

"Scams are surely on the rise and the only sure piece of advice I can give is to be careful," he told DN.

Dodi Axelson

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