Bribery trial for Malmö council leader

The Social Democrat leader of Malmö City Council, Ilmar Reepalu, is to be prosecuted for accepting a bribe - a trip to South Africa two years ago - announced prosecutor Per Nichols at a press conference on Friday.

Bengt Holgersson, the former governor of Skåne, is also being prosecuted for corruption. The businessman who paid for their trip to South Africa is to be prosecuted for bribery.

Per Nichols claims that the value of what Ilmar Reepalu accepted was at least 34,000 kronor, while Bengt Holgersson received at least 63,000 kronor-worth of benefits.

Reepalu, who is also the chairman of the Swedish Association of Local Authorities, was one of a hundred guests who the businessman invited on a four day safari during the Ascension Day holiday in 2004. Nichols said at the press conference that in his view the two politicians were invited on the Africa trip for “corruptive reasons”.

The prosecutor noted that the punishment for corruption can theoretically be up to two years in prison. But since none of those involved have previous convictions, a prison sentence would be unlikely in the case of a guilty verdict.

Ilmar Reepalu said he was very surprised about the legal proceedings being instituted against him.

“I can’t see anything in the preliminary inquiry which could be considered to be bribery. My lawyer thinks the same,” he said.

Reepalu said that the businessman, the owner and chairman of a Gothenburg-based IT company, had been his private friend for over ten years. The trip to South Africa was a present on Reepalu’s 60th birthday.

“He described his project down there and invited me to the opening. I said that in that case it had to be a weekend when I was free. It turned out to be the Ascension Day holiday which suited me. It was two very nice days, including Zulu dancing,” he said.

Ilmar Reepalu maintains that he has not had any business relationship with Olofsson, and said that he hopes the legal process will not affect his daily work.

Both the businessman and the guests described the trip as a normal gift between friends. But that has been questioned in the Swedish media after it was revealed that the IT company built a new computer system for Malmö City Council.

TT/The Local