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GENERAL MOTORS

Dutch luxury carmaker confirms interest in Saab

A second niche luxury sports carmaker, Spyker, has confirmed it is interested in buying Saab Automobile.

Dutch luxury carmaker confirms interest in Saab

“All I can say is that we and our main shareholder, Converse Group, are interested in Saab and there are talks at the moment,” Spyker spokesman Niels Molewijk told AFP by telephone.

“We are having discussions on this topic with Saab and also with GM since they are the ones selling.”

Converse Group holds 30 percent of the capital of Spyker, which is listed on the Amsterdam stock exchange.

A spokesperson for Spyker Cars, a brand which was revived again in 2000 after 70 years of dormancy, also confirmed its interest in Saab to the TT news agency.

Spyker’s roots go back to the 1870s when it was a family firm which first built coaches prior to moving into automobile and aircraft production before going bankrupt in the 1920s.

The brand was revived in 1999 as Spyker Cars by current CEO Victor Muller and Maarten de Bruijn, with the company’s first hand-built luxury cars coming on line in 2000.

Last year, Spyker sold 43 vehicles for around €200,000 ($301,400) a piece, according to the Reuters news agency.

Today, the company has 135 employees based at a plant in Zeewolde in the Netherlands. But production is in the process of being relocated to Coventry, England as part of a cost savings programme.

Spyker has yet to turn a profit and has had to rely on financing to survive, Reuters reports.

During 20 years of ownership by GM, Saab never made a profit and is expected to lose about 3 billion kronor ($434.5 million) in 2009 and 2010.

Following a decision by Swedish carmaker Koenigsegg to abandon plans to buy Saab, the future of the company has been uncertain.

On Tuesday, the board of GM said it will consider offers for Saab until the end of the year, by which time it will either be sold or shut down.

Social Democratic party leader Mona Sahlin said she is supporting the government’s efforts to ensure Saab’s survival.

“It’s now up to all the parties to help out. The government knows that we in the opposition will do everything to solve this, pushing a bill through the Riksdag which supports the Swedish vehicles industry,” she told TT.

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SPYING

Sweden set for tougher laws against spying

The Swedish government wants to make it easier for police and prosecutors to combat spying against refugees in Sweden and against the country as a whole.

Sweden set for tougher laws against spying

In addition, such crimes will be subject to stiffer penalties, according to a bill expected to be presented by the government on Thursday.

The proposal includes a wider definition of both crimes, which are currently difficult to prosecute.

The minimum sentence for spying on refugees will be increased from simple fines to prison time.

The definition of spying on refugees will also be expanded to “unauthorized intelligence activity against a person”, according to the proposal, and is meant to address cases in which foreign powers attempt to spy on regime critics who have fled in Sweden.

Current legislation stipulates that the spying must take place in secret, but now the government also wants to cover cases in which information gathering takes place openly and is often followed by threats.

“This is unsavoury activity that we must take very seriously. Many feel that authorities in their previous home countries are trying to put pressure on them and keeping tabs on what they do. Considering that many refugees have relatives back in their home countries, things can go quite badly,” Justice Minister Beatrice Ask told the TT news agency.

Iran, China, Syria, Uzbekistan, and Eritrea are among the countries that are sometimes accused of spying on refugees in Sweden, but very few cases ever make it to court.

The proposed law will also broaden the definition of unauthorized intelligence activity directed against Sweden.

“We’re widening what can be criminalized and it’s directed toward activities that one can compare with the first stage of spying,” said Ask.

The new definition targets the secret gathering of information and scraps a current requirement that the purpose of the information gathering must also be proven.

“This has been sought after for a long time by the Swedish Security Service (Säpo) and others who investigate these types of crimes. They think it’s been too hard to bring forth evidence against the perpetrators,” said Ask.

Penalties for spying against Sweden will also tougher according to the new bill, to between six months and two years in prison, or four years of the crime is considered aggravated.

Stronger sentences makes it easier for investigators to have suspects held on remand or get authorization for telephone wiretapping and other “secret coercive measures”.

TT/The Local/dl

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