Red Cross chief appeals fraud conviction

Johan af Donner, the former communications chief of the Swedish Red Cross sentenced to five years in prison for swindling the organization out of millions of kronor, has appealed the district court sentence.

Red Cross chief appeals fraud conviction

Stockholm District Court found Johan af Donner guilty of aggravated fraud against the Red Cross and the Swedish Cancer Society. He was also convicted for breach of trust and for being an accessory to aggravated accounting fraud.

He has now appealed arguing that the five-year sentence handed down was too harsh.

“The judgement should be submitted to review by the appeals court, specifically with regard to the length of the sentence,” af Donner’s lawyer Leif Silbersky told news agency TT.

“We think three years is a reasonable punishment,” he said.

The court ignored defence pleas for leniency, with Silberksy arguing that af Donner’s confession and displays of remorse warranted a lower sentence.

Af Donner, who pleaded guilty to all charges, used the money he siphoned off from the charities to fund a life of luxury. He viewed his monthly salary of 60,000 kronor ($7,500) as too low, and used the money he stole to pay for costs such as his son’s boarding school education.

As fundraising chief at the cancer society in the early 2000s, and as fundraising and communications chief at the Red Cross between 2004 and 2009, af Donner was considered a talented and trustworthy leader by colleagues.

The fraud was discovered after staff at the Red Cross’s Stockholm headquarters raised concerns about a large number of strange invoices. It emerged that af Donner had approved payments to companies that did not exist and for services that had never been performed.

Two suppliers of consultancy and printing services to the Red Cross were tried alongside af Donner, and were jailed for for eighteen months and two years and six months respectively.

The Red Cross and the Swedish Cancer Society are now attempting to recover money from af Donner.

The court awarded damages against af Donner equivalent to the amount he stole from the charities.

The Red Cross is claiming 5.2 million kronor and the Cancer Society is looking to recover 2.5 million kronor. Prosecutors have so far managed to secure around 6 million kronor worth of his assets.

The court also banned af Donner from holding senior positions in a Swedish company for seven years. The other two men received five-year ban.

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