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Systembolaget supplier charged with smuggling

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09:55 CET+01:00
A senior director at alcohol supplier Vin-Trädgårdh AB has been arrested on suspicion of smuggling alcohol worth millions of kronor into Sweden. Two other employees are also suspected of involvement in the operation.

"They have used a classic method of smuggling which was very common ten years ago," said the prosecutor dealing with the case, Gunnar Fjaestad.

The man, who is the vice managing director of the company, is accused of having sold 121,766 litres of spirits and 11,760 litres of wine illegally between July 2004 and February 2005. He denies all charges.

According to the prosecutor, Vin-Trädgårdh avoided paying any tax on the vodka, whisky and wine which it was importing from Germany by telling the Swedish authorities that it was bound for Norway.

"You can send a consignment tax-free from a tax storage hold but the alcohol never arrived at the destination," said Gunnar Fjaestad.

"There are papers which show that the export took place, so everything looks OK - it was only with a thorough investigation that the con was revealed."

Instead the alcohol was taken to a "secret warehouse" in Stockholm. Customs officials raided the location in February and found several pallets of spirits.

The prosecutor maintains that the alcohol was sold on from there, on the black market in the Mälardal region.

"The buyers were bars and catering companies, but part of it has also been sold at male-dominated workplaces," he said.

The company is thought to have avoided paying almost 24 million kronor in import duty and tax.

"Where the money is now is an interesting question which I don't want to comment on at the moment," said Gunnar Fjaestad.

Ola Salomonsson, who is defending the director of Vin-Trädgårdh, said that his client "categorically denies" the charges and professed himself to be surprised that he was held in custody. He maintains that the alcohol was sold in Norway.

But that's impossible, the prosecutor told Swedish Radio.

"The company which was used as the recipient of the alcohol doesn't exist in Norway and the tax number which was used has never been registered for import in Norway," he said.

Another man, said to be responsible for export and import at Vin-Trädgårdh, was charged and held in custody along with the director. A female employee is also under suspicion although she was released.

One man has already been sentenced to six months in prison for his involvement in the smuggling. He was caught with 800 litres of illegal Patron vodka in the back of his lorry.

Vin-Trädgårdh is also being prosecuted as part of the wide-ranging "Systembolaget bribery scandal". The company has allegedly paid out 935,000 kronor in bribes to Systembolaget store managers on the basis of a points system under which store managers would be paid accordingly for stocking a particular product.

Police found a list of store managers in the company's possession with 'bribability' ratings such as "one of us" and "no problem talking".

The news agency TT asked Gunnar Fjaestad if more arrests could be expected.

"It wasn't just one person who was going to drink 120,000 litres of alcohol," he said.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Expressen, SR

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