Debt agency makes spacewalk seem like a cakewalk

Debt agency makes spacewalk seem like a cakewalk
A simple drive around metropolitan Stockholm nearly two years ago continues to cause headaches for Sweden’s first astronaut, Christer Fuglesang.

According to a recent ruling by the Administrative Court of Appeal, the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Kronofogden) has the right to keep Fuglesang on its registry of people with unpaid debts, because of 580 kronor ($96) in late traffic fees.

It all began in July of 2006 when Fuglesang drove his US-registered Saab through congestion charge pay stations around Stockholm. The stations assess fees to drivers through an automatic sensor or by taking a picture of cars license plates and then sending a bill to the address where the car is registered.

Because his car was registered to an outdated address, Fuglesang never received word that he was liable for the fees, according the newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

By the time the authorities finally got in touch with Fuglesang four months later, he was in the US set to blast off on the space shuttle Discovery to become the first Swede in space.

Once back on earth, Fuglesang paid the fee as soon as he could–even though the National Tax Board of Sweden later forgave the charges on the grounds that foreign registered cars are free from congestion charges.

But by that time, Fuglesang already had a mark by his name on the debt agency’s registry, which then appealed a lower court ruling that the astronaut’s name ought to be removed.

The Administrative Court of Appeal has now sided with the agency, finding that Fuglesang’s car was in fact temporarily registered in Sweden at the time and that “people who have emigrated should inform the Swedish Road Administration when they change their address in Sweden.”

Fuglesang has three weeks to appeal the ruling to the Supreme Administrative Court.