Trial of ex-Skandia chief begins

The much-anticipated trial of the former head of Skandia began on Friday morning at Stockholm district court. It marks what Dagens Nyheter called "the culmination of the worst scandal to shake Swedish business since the 1930s".

Lars-Eric Petersson entered the courtroom at 9am on the dot and proceedings began immediately – despite difficulties in squeezing court officials, prosecutors, defence lawyers and at least 50 journalists into the courtroom.

Prosecutor Christer van der Kwast began his opening statement by explaining that the prosecution consisted of two cases of “breach of trust against a principal”. He then went on to sum up Skandia’s development from 1997, when Petersson took over the company, and 2003, when he left the managing director’s seat.

The company performed extremely well during the first years but after 2000 the bubble appeared to burst and Skandia shares plummeted on the stock market.

“The shares were worth about the same when Petersson joined as when he left,” said van der Kwast.

The prosecutor will attempt to prove that Lars-Eric Petersson raised the company’s bonus limits for the year 1998/99 without the approval of the board. That led to at least 185 million kronor too much being paid out to those participating in the company’s Wealthbuilder programme.

In addition, he is accused of taking 37 million kronor more than the board had approved for his pension.

“As chief executive Lars-Eric Petterson held a particularly responsible position. That means he was charged with looking out for the company’s best interest and respecting board decisions and not putting his own interests first,” said Christer van der Kwast.

The maximum penalty for the crime of “breach of trust against a principal” is six years imprisonment.

Lars-Eric Petersson’s defence lawyers are Torgny Wetterberg and Christer Brantheim.

The trial is expected to finish on April 6th.

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TT/The Local