Young Social Democrats face fraud inquiry

An increasing number of Sweden's Young Social Democrat (SSU) "chapters" are now under investigation by the police after it was revealed that they had artificially inflated their membership numbers to secure more state funding.

The Kalmar, Jönköping, Jämtland, Blekinge, Västernorrland, Västerbotten and Uppland chapters have been named for padding membership rosters by paying membership dues for fictitious or unknowing members out of the Young Social Democrats’ own coffers.

The variable contribution from the state is around 150 kronor per member. That means that SSU Blekinge, as an example, would have received over 75,000 kronor more funding that it was entitled to.

Former chairman of SSU Uppland, Peter Gustavsson, told Upsala Nya Tidning, “There were maybe some 100 members whose membership fees were paid by the local chapter.” Gustavsson admitted to UNT that this fraudulent practice went on during his period in office, 1996-2000.

“There was, and there is obviously still, a culture of fraudulence within the SSU organization. You learned it from the older generation of Young Social Democrats,” he said.

He gave an example of how it was carried out. “SSU chapters would keep outgoing members a few years on the active members list even though they didn’t pay their membership dues.”

Gustavsson pointed out that its purpose was not to collect more money.

“It was about getting mandates for the party conventions. Certain districts starting inflating their membership numbers, and others followed suit.”

Chairman of SSU Jämtland, Jonas Andersson, denied knowledge of the membership scam.

“I have never heard anything about it,” he said.

Ombudsman Anton Waara suggested a plausible explanation.

“It might have been that [chapters] paid new members’ dues in advance and they haven’t had a chance to pay. Others tell us that they don’t have money. In those cases they are given membership – we want to give people a chance to change the world.”

Two Social Democrat ministers have been dragged into the mess. The minister for schools, Ibrahim Baylan, and the minister for pre-school education and adult learning, Lena Hallengren, are both suspected of involvement in membership fraud while active in the SSU.

Prime minister Göran Persson cautioned Expressen in defence of his ministers.

“One must be very careful how one represents [their alleged involvement]. Ibrahim is a unique individual and I know Lena to be an exceptionally meticulous person who is well organized.”

Suggestions for steps to repair the Young Social Democrats’ reputation – and to prevent continued membership fixing – include freezing assets, centrally organized membership registration and collection of dues and a simplified transfer of power to new leadership.

Fredrik Malm, Chairman of the Young Liberals (LUF) told Svenska Dagbladet that he is not impressed by the suggested clean-up measures.

“This must lead to a legal trial and if I were the chairman of the Young Social Democrats, I would go to the authorities and demand the police and state prosecutor investigate Ibrahim Baylan and Lena Hallengren and all the others who have been involved in membership fraud.”

But the SSU is already under investigation by several local authorities.

Sources: Dagens Nyheter, Svenska Dagbladet, Expressen, Upsala Nya Tidning