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SAAB

Saab’s Russian backer seeks clean slate

Vladimir Antonov, the Russian businessman and backer of Spyker Cars takeover of Saab, has launched a campaign to clear his name from allegations of money laundering and organised crime, Svenska Dagbladet reports.

Saab's Russian backer seeks clean slate

In a meeting with journalists at Geneva’s ongoing motor show, Antonov confirmed that he aims to formally own the Swedish car maker and claimed that if he remained unable to lend the financing, Spyker would struggle to raise the funds to complete the deal.

When asked if he was prepared to provide the outstanding $24 million which Spyker is due to hand over to General Motors on July 15th, Antonov replied:

“Absolutely. If I am not allowed to then Victor (Muller) could be in a tough situation,” according to the newspaper.

The Russian businessman, who lives with his family in London, confirmed that he is working to clear his name and persuade General Motors that the allegations which have circulated around his business empire are unfounded.

Antonov, who said that trips to his native Russia always carried an element of risk to his personal security, claimed that reports that the US government ordered GM to stop the deal over Antonov’s involvement sounded unlikely.

“I think that it is more that GM does not want to transfer technology to Russia. In the same way as they tried to stop Magna and Russian Sperbank from buying Opel,” Antonov said, according to SvD.

Antonov revealed that he has enlisted the help of a team of US lawyers and investigators to persuade GM to change its position. Either way it is the Russian’s banks that are backing Spyker Cars, Victor Muller and thus the Saab purchase, Antonov claimed.

“They threw me out but they are using my money,” he said.

Swedish media have reported that the deal was delayed in late 2009 as an investigation ordered by the Swedish government into the workings of Spyker and its Russian investors landed on the desk of the FBI and put a temporary stop to Spyker’s takeover of Saab.

A source close to the government told business daily Dagens Industri (DI) that Swedish security services (Säpo) were given the task of tracking the business interests of the Antonov family.

The assignment was initiated by the Swedish National Debt Office (Riksgälden) which brought in private investigators to aid the mission.

Säpo is reported to have found connections between the Antonovs and organised crime as well as involvement in money laundering.

To prevent the Russians gaining any possible control over a new Saab-Spyker venture the government handed their findings over to the FBI.

The US government reacted quickly to the report and reported to have given the board of General Motors a direct order to stop the deal, which happened on December 18th.

Hans Lindblad, state secretary at the Swedish Ministry of Finance, confirmed the course of events to the newspaper.

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CARS

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT
The pair are accused of falsifying the paperwork at the height of the Swedish company's financial difficulties at the start of the decade.
 
A third person – who has not been named in the Swedish media – is accused of assisting them by issuing false invoices adding up to a total of 30 million kronor ($3.55m).
 
According to court documents, the charges relate to the firm's business in Ukraine and the paperwork in question was signed just before former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson resigned.
 
Both Jonsson and Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have admitted signing the papers but denied knowledge of the Ukranian firm implicated in the case.
 
All three suspects deny all the charges against them.
 

Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers. Photo:  Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
 
Saab filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2011, after teetering on the edge of collapse for nearly two years.
 
Chief prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the court in Vänersborg on Wednesday that the alleged crimes took place in March 2011, when Saab was briefly owned by the Dutch company Spyker Cars.
  
It was eventually bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), a Chinese-owned company after hundreds of staff lost their jobs.
 
The car maker, which is based in west Sweden, has struggled to resolve serious financial difficulties by attracting new investors since the takeover.
 
In October 2014 it announced it had axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce.
 
Since 2000, Saab automobile has had no connection with the defence and aeronautics firm with the same name. It only produces one model today, the electric 9-3 Aero Sedan, mainly targeting the Chinese market.