Swedes try to shake off incorruptible image

Sweden is the sixth least corrupt country in the world, it was revealed this week - news that seemed to come as a surprise to the press after the scandals at Skandia and Systembolaget. But as if to underline that even Sweden is not immune from dodgy dealing, a court decided that eleven million crowns that a man had admitted accepting in bribes could pass to his children.

Transparency International, an organization that monitors corruption around the world, was organizing a seminar in Stockholm. Sweden comes seventh in Transparency International’s list of the least corrupt countries, but Peter Eigen, the organization’s founder, told Dagens Nyheter that Sweden could not be complacent.

“There is no guarantee against abuse here,” he said, warning that there were problems with the financing of political parties that weren’t often discussed.

Appearing to do her best for the cause of corruption this week was Anne-Marie Pålsson, a Moderate Party MP. Swedish radio’s Ekot programme reported that Pålsson had said that bribes can help people in power to make decisions that are better for society as a whole. But Pålsson claimed to have been misunderstood, said DN.

“Of course I’m not in any way an advocate of corruption,” she told news agency TT, “but this is a free country and I must be allowed to express my views. If people misinterpret them, then I’m sorry.”

Still, whatever Pålsson had in mind it was almost certainly not the twenty million crowns that the technical director of a Gotland business admitted to taking in bribes in 2003. This week, a court in Gotland decided the remaining eleven million should pass to his children.

The man was technical director of ferry company Gotlands Rederi, when he was put on trial for allegedly receiving the money in bribes from two men at Rolls-Royce, based in Kristinehamn. He received the money through a Swiss bank account, and admitted in court that he had received large amounts of money. The man killed himself the day after his admission, and the Rolls-Royce employees were freed because the evidence that the technical director had given was too incoherent to convict them.

Following the man’s death, the prosecutor argued that the state should get the contents of the Swiss bank account. But this week, the court in Gotland disappointed them. Sydsvenskan reported the court’s ruling that there was no doubt that the money had been paid by Rolls-Royce to the technical director’s private account.

But the court said that it was not proven that the people who paid the money knew that they were paying bribes, and as nobody had been convicted of any crime, the money could pass to the dead man’s two sons, one in his twenties, the other in his thirties.

“It’s absolutely right that the court found in favour of the estate – the man was never convicted of any crime,” Jonas Reiner, a representative of the dead man’s estate, told Aftonbladet.

But ethics campaigners were appalled: “It’s morally repugnant,” said Leif Gustafsson from Etikfrämjandet.

Prosecutors are expected to appeal against the decision.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Aftonbladet, Sydsvenskan