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57 convicted in massive Swedish doping scandal

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14:51 CEST+02:00
Fifty-seven people were convicted on Thursday for being part of a massive doping ring in one of the largest criminal cases in Swedish legal history that accrued an estimated 58 million kronor ($9 million) in legal fees.

A total of 70 people were originally charged in the case for manufacturing and selling illicit doping materials.

Two people received tougher sentences than the others convicted in the case, with a man from Sollefteå in northern Sweden receiving a seven-year prison sentence for aggravated smuggling and doping crimes, while a woman was sentenced to six years for the same crimes.

However, charges against the man's wife were thrown out, while his sister was convicted for being an accomplice to aggravated doping crimes, receiving a 16 month prison sentence.

Prosecutors had argued for prison sentences of nine and eight years respectively for the two believed to be behind that nationwide doping network.

Gunnar Falk, defence attorney for the Sollefteå man, was unhappy with the ruling.

“I haven't had a chance to read through the comprehensive ruling, but I can say spontaneously that my client's sentence was too harsh,” he told the TT news agency.

He added that the case should be appealed, perhaps all the way to the Supreme Court, saying that the way the police and prosecutors calculated the scope of the operation was flawed.

Two other men from Gothenburg in western Sweden received sentences that were nearly as long for similar crimes related to handling the doping material.

The operation's ringleader, a 45-year-old Swede believed to be living in Serbia off the proceeds generated from the sale of doping materials, remains at large.

"The man managed the operations from Spain and Portugal where doping materials which had been imported from China were processed and for further transport to various addresses in Sweden," chief prosecutor Marina Amonsson told news agency in TT in October 2010 at the time charges were filed.

The trial began back in November in Sundsvall in northern Sweden, and is, after seven months of proceedings which ended in June, the most comprehensive trial ever held in Sweden.

Several others were convicted of having different roles in the operation, each receiving prison sentences of varying length.

Two men from Malmö in southern Sweden were sentenced to four and three years, respectively, for possessing, storing, and supplying large amounts of doping material.

Another woman was sentenced to prison for having siphoned off around 1 million kronor from the operation, while others were convicted for various doping offences stemming from actions designed to deflect responsibility from the ringleaders.

A total of 26 people received fines, suspended sentences, youth community service, or prison sentences for various doping and smuggling crimes.

The doping network was uncovered in December 2009 though a police operation dubbed Operation Liquid which was carried out within the framework of the government's mandate to law enforcement agencies to fight organised crime in Sweden.

More than 300 police officers, as well as a number of officials from the Prosecution Authority (Tullverket), Swedish Customs (Tullverket), the Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket), and the Swedish Enforcement Authority (Kronofogden) participated in the raid which was the largest of its kind in Sweden.

Around 40 people were arrested in nine cities across Sweden, many of them bodybuilders.

Some smuggled in and sold doping materials, while other simply used the substances themselves.

In connection with the raid, police confiscated the largest among of doping substances and equipment ever recovered in a police operation.

“All of the confiscated material filled a huge underground storage facility in Sundsvall and a number of police storage facilities were used as well,” detective Henrik Blusi, a police officer involved in carrying out surveillance on the network, told the TT news agency.

Police remained uncertain of what sort of impact the raid may have had on the market.

According to Blusi, police continue to hunt down buyers of doping material supplied by the network.

“We've now surveyed the buyers and have sent out a list to police agencies around the country of nearly 1,000 people who purchased doping material,” he said.

“They can expect fines and other sanctions.”

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