Rail bosses freed in environment case

Two senior former officials at Banverket, Sweden's railway network authority, have been acquitted over the draining of the Hallandsås ridge during the building of a tunnel in the 1990s.

Helsingborg district court found that neither former acting chief executive Nils-Erik Bergström nor project manager Jan Andersson were guilty of environmental crimes for draining ground water from the ridge. Banverket was given a corporate fine of 1.5 million kronor.

The case centred around the building of the tunnel between December 1996 and September 1997. According to water regulations, only 33 litres of water per second was allowed to run out of the ridge, but at times as much as twice this volume was draining away. Springs dried up as a result, and plant growth was damaged.

The leakage spurred the builders to use sealing compound Rhoca Gil to block the gaps, but this caused a scandal when it emerged that the compound was poisonous and had caused illness in workers and the deaths of local cows.

Bergström and Andersson, who are both now retired, have both been tried before for the same crime together with the former head of Banverket’s southern division, who is now dead. They were also acquitted then, on the basis that no permits were needed to drain the ridge. The Supreme Court interpreted the law differently, and sent the case back to the district court.

“Preliminarily, I am quite happy with this ruling,” said chief prosecutor Nils Rekke.

“The important thing for me is that Banverket has to pay a fine. I can live with the fact that both bosses were acquitted.”

He added that he intends to study the judgment further before deciding whether to appeal the acquittal of Andersson and Bergström.