Systembolaget punishes “bribery suppliers”

Sweden's alcohol retail monopoly, Systembolaget, has announced that it will no longer trade with one of its suppliers after allegations that the wholesaler bribed Systembolaget staff.

According to Systembolaget, most of the 77 store managers who are being prosecuted for accepting bribes in the form of money, holidays and gifts were offered them by Vin-Trädgårdh AB, a wine supplier.

Two other suppliers, Åkesson and Philipsson & Söderberg, are also facing sanctions, with a number of contracts cancelled.

“Vin-Trädgårdh is behind the absolute majority of the bribes according to the police investigation,” said Lennart Agén, head of information at Systembolaget, to Svenska Dagbladet.

“The measures against the other two suppliers are therefore not of the same degree as those against Vin-Trädgårdh.”

The news of the bribery scandal shook Systembolaget last year and added to the pressure the monopoly was under from falling sales and calls for tax reductions on alcohol.

Some employees are alleged to have made 100,000 crowns each and the total sum of money involved is said to be 1.2 million crowns.

Suspicions were first aroused at the end of 2002 when a Systembolaget employee handed over three lists to company management. The lists revealed how much store managers could earn by helping suppliers to reach their sales targets.

After an internal investigation, it was established that some stores had unusually large amounts of certain brands from certain suppliers. In January 2003 ten store managers were dismissed.

By September 2004, after a lengthy investigation, prosecutors revealed that some 92 individuals were suspected of being involved. 77 of those were store managers while the remaining 15 were staff at suppliers.

“The violations are so extensive and serious that it is necessary to take the most stringent action,” said Jakob Melander, Systembolaget’s lawyer.

Melander told Swedish Radio that the bribery was thought to have been “almost a business concept”.

But Vin-Trädgårdh was reluctant to comment to the media.

“The letter from Systembolaget was very confusing and we don’t exactly know what it means,” said Marie-Louise Davidsson, a part-owner of Vin-Trädgårdh.

“I’m looking at it together with our lawyers.”

Vin-Trädgårdh’s products accounted for 3% of Systembolaget’s sales.

Sources: SR, Svenska Dagbladet