Gotland official called in over favouritism claims

The county governor of the Baltic island of Gotland, Marianne Samuelsson, has been summoned by the government to explain comments claiming that prominent business people should be given favourable treatment.

Gotland official called in over favouritism claims; Hemlins foto/Gotlands Länsstyrelsen

“I am now going to meet with Marianne Samuelsson and underline that which is a matter of course, a constitutional principle, that all are equal before the law. I would like to discuss with her view on this,” the local government minister, Mats Odell told news agency TT on Thursday.

Odell has called Samuelsson in for talks after a tape emerged of her arguing that businessman Max Hansson should receive preferential treatment for plans to extend his property in a protected area.

“Max Hansson is one of our largest business people, or the most significant business-owner we have on the island,” the former Green Party Member of Parliament is heard to have said at the March meeting of the county administrative board.

A recording of the meeting was made public by Sveriges Radio.

Samuelsson claimed in the meeting that other counties would do the same in granting dispensation to residents of standing.

“We can not lose business opportunities. We can not only have people walking around on the beach, you can’t survive on that.”

Samuelsson later approved Hansson’s plans against the objections of several experts.

In the wake of the scandal Samuelsson has found herself isolated among her colleagues.

Björn Eriksson, county governor of Östergötland, told the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper (SvD) on Thursday:

“On the available facts I can not accept that a person’s importance is decisive in making a decision. One can not in public service make a difference between individuals, rich or poor.”

Lars Bäckström, county governor of Västra Götaland, rejected Samuelsson’s claim that he would surely not object to plans submitted by the head of locally-based firm Volvo to build by the beach.

“One can get dispensation for general reasons but not as a consequence of one’s standing in society,” he told SvD.

In accordance with a beach access law passed in 1996, a 300 metre coastal strip around Gotland is protected and therefore requires special dispensation from the board for any changes.

Hansson submitted an application to extend a house located within this 300 metre boundary. The plans were therefore subject to inspection and required special dispensation.

When an official for the board travelled to the property, in Östergarnslandet on the island’s east coast, a series of other unapproved changes to the property were discovered.

Hansson has gradually extended his property from a modest 2,000 square metres to almost two hectares since 1975 and much of the work has been undertaken without planning permission, according to SvD.

These extensions include a tennis court and a golf green.

Max Hansson has rejected the assertion that he has received favourable treatment from the board, on the contrary, they have been a perennial thorn in his side, he claims.

“It seems to be a right old mess at the county administrative board. I have always followed all laws and ordinances.”

“What do those bureaucrats know about it? They play balalaika, not tennis,” Hansson told SvD referring to a Russian string instrument in an apparent reference to supposed left-wing sympathies.

This is not the first time that Marianne Samuelsson has courted controversy.

She was criticized last year after it emerged that Nordstream, the firm behind the construction of a controversial gas pipeline from Russia to Germany under the Baltic sea, funded the 200,000 kronor ($27,000) extension of the Historical Museum of Gotland.

Samuelsson is currently on holiday and Mats Odell confirmed to the news agency TT on Thursday that he therefore expects the meeting to take place at an unspecified date in the near future.

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Is Elijah Wood in Sundsvall and what is he doing there?

It is not that Sundsvall is not a nice town. It is just that it is not normally the place where Hollywood stars go for a night out. So rumours that Elijah Wood was visiting the town quickly went viral on Thursday.

Is Elijah Wood in Sundsvall and what is he doing there?
The main shopping street in Sundsvall. And Elijah Wood. Photo: Fredrik Sandberg/TT & Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

The 35-year-old actor of Lord of the Rings fame was reportedly spotted visiting restaurant 'Tuppen' in the central Swedish town, which posted picture evidence on Facebook and Instagram late on Wednesday.

News of the unexpected celebrity visit quickly dominated local news headlines in Sweden, and was picked up by some of the national newspapers too, with growing excitement on social media. Several newspapers even asked readers to call them if they had any more information about the visit.

“Starstruck at Tuppen. Celebrity visit in the shape of Elijah Wood himself from the Lord of the Rings. Thanks for the visit!” wrote the restaurant.

Not everyone was convinced that it actually was the star, however, and some speculated that it could just be a lookalike or a clever PR trick by the restaurant itself to attract more visitors.

“I think it's fake. They had a customer who looked like him and wanted to joke,” wrote one person on their Facebook page. “Is it fake or is he looking for the ring in Sundsvall now?” wrote another.

Wood, who's currently starring in BBC America series Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, visited Stockholm last month to perform at the Södra Teatern venue with his friend Zach Cowie as DJ duo Wooden Wisdom. His film production company SpectreVision, of which he is a co-founder, helped produce Swedish 2013 science fiction movie LFO.

With a population of some 50,000 people, historic sawmill town Sundsvall is the third biggest town in Sweden's northern region Norrland and Sweden's 21st biggest town overall. It is home to one of the campuses of Mid-Sweden University as well as Sweden's first-ever international casino.

Sundsvall's nearby island Alnön was recently voted one of the most beautiful places in Sweden. Restaurant Tuppen is one of a number of restaurants in the town. It opened in May this year and aims to serve locally produced meat and fish.

The reason behind Wood's supposed visit to the town was not immediately known, but it would not be the first time an international celebrity has fallen in love with unexpected places in Sweden.

Last year US-Haitian rapper Wyclef Jean revealed that he wanted to move to Sandviken outside Gävle. British actor Hugh Grant recently bought a house in Torekov, southern Sweden. And rapper Kanye West paid a visit to the rural town of Älmhult to convince its Ikea headquarters to let him design furniture.