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77 Systembolaget managers prosecuted for bribery

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11:28 CET+01:00
77 Systembolaget managers and 15 employees of alcohol distributing companies have been formally charged with bribery. A total of 1.2 million crowns is alleged to have been given to bosses of different stores in form of alcohol, trips and cash.

"Only a few have admitted to committing a crime," said prosecutor Ewa Nyhult to Upsala Nya Tidning, adding that the term 'product samples' will not be accepted as an excuse and instead will be considered bribery.

She said that the fact that the suspects are employed in a state company only makes matters worse.

"It is a company that has special social interests. It is responsible for the alcohol policy in Sweden according to the parliament and will influence my decision concerning their penalties," Nyhult told TT.

"The 68 suspects for bribery risk fines or jail for up to two years. The 9 who are charged with serious bribery can get up to six months in jail."

The investigation report, containing more than 5000 pages, was made public on Friday. Before that, Systembolaget and its managing director Anitra Steen were familiar with only the names of bosses possibly involved in the bribe scandal.

In a press release, Steen made her position on the matter clear:

"We have done everything we could to support and help the police and prosecutor. These charges are an important step in the work against corruption in the alcohol business."

The material collected as evidence has been found in computers that were confiscated at searches in different companies. In one company, the police found a list with information about all Systembolaget's shops and bosses in Sweden:

"Magnus is one of our friends, shop 1302 Malmö" or "Our friends, shop 1803".

Hans Strandberg, the lawyer defending one of the distribution bosses, thinks that it can be hard to convict some of the suspects in this case.

"I think that you cannot see black and white in this case. It is about different distributors who have acted in different ways," he said in an interview with Swedish Radio.

Systembolaget has been working out a plan for the day the bosses are charged. Jonas Milton, the managing director of Almega, Systembolaget's employer organisation, thinks those charged will be fired.

"From the material I have seen so far, it looks relatively obvious and simple to follow the prosecutor's line of thought," said Milton.

Lawyers working at Almega will take care of the notices and a new recruiting company has already been hired to replace those who are fired.

None of the managers charged are currently working at Systembolaget, but some are still employed by the organisation; 54 are at home, still getting paid.

Sources: Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, SR, TT

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