Extortion doubles in Sweden

The number of cases of extortion in Sweden has doubled since 1999, according to figures from the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention. The reason for the increase is thought to be a surge in organised crime networks, which use blackmail as a means of financing other criminal activities.

Criminal gangs such as the Hell’s Angels and the Bandidos have established systems for collecting debts, often invented, with threats of violence, reported Dagens Nyheter.

Chief prosecutor Nils Rekke told Dagens Nyheter that the minimum punishment for serious blackmail ought to be increased to two years’ imprisonment.

“Blackmail as a crime has changed character,” said Rekke, adding that the Swedish courts had not yet reacted to this.

At the end of the 1990s around 600 cases of extortion were reported per year. Last year that number had risen to 1,200.

The number of cases brought before the courts has also increased significantly. That also appears to have led to an associated rise in the number of threats made against plaintiffs and witnesses in trials.