‘Systemet’ under fire for lavish party

Sweden's troubled state alcohol store chain is coming under heavy fire for throwing a party for its staff at a cost of 4,000 kronor a head.

Systembolaget, which has a monopoly on retail sales of wine, strong beer and spirits in Sweden, spent 14 million kronor on the party for 3,500 staff.

Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund has branded the party an “extravagance.”

The shindig was thrown by the company’s managing director (and Prime Minister Göran Persson’s wife), Anitra Steen to celebrate the company’s fiftieth annniversary.

Guests had their hotels and dinner paid for, and were treated to entertainment by star guests including Lill-Babs and Björn Skifs. Steen also gave a performance herself, singing and dancing on the stage wearing a pink ballgown.

The party, held in Alvsjö, Stockholm, on 5th November, came two days before several former Systembolaget store managers went on trial for bribery. It coincides with a 120 million kronor cost-cutting programme at the chain, in which 90 people are losing their jobs.

Christian Democrat leader Göran Hägglund said he condemned the party.

“It is particularly important for state-owned companies to treat citizens’ money responsibly,” he told Expressen.

But Systembolaget’s spokesman Björn Rydberg said he couldn’t see the problem. He said that most of the money hadn’t gone on partying, but on paying for travel and hotel costs.

He told Svenska Dagbladet’s website that the party was “a fresh start after a difficult period for our staff.”

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