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Justice minister calls for tighter bribery laws

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16:44 CET+01:00
In the wake of several high profile cases at home and abroad, Swedish justice minister Beatrice Ask has called for stricter laws governing bribery and corruption.

“We have had a law in place for many years but it has been unclear and has not been used in many contexts,” the minister told Sveriges Television (SVT).

In an effort to address the issue, Ask has handed draft legislation to the Legislative Council for review that would seek to simplify and clarify what constitutes bribery and corruption.

Among other things, the new bill will make it possible to punish Swedish companies that have used unscrupulous agents and bribery in international business dealings.

The proposed bill also includes tightening up the criminal code governing gifts, rewards and other benefits in industry.

Traders will now be able to design and follow a code that regulates the rewards and benefits which can be deemed acceptable within business circles.

The proposal also widens the circle of people that can be convicted for offering or accepting bribes.

In addition, the new bill includes language covering attempts to bribe volunteer officials at athletic competitions, whereby an athlete could be convicted even if the person accepting the bribe isn't actually employed.

As a result, tennis and golf professionals who tried to bribe officials could be convicted of a crime, according to the new bill.

Another new rule allows for one's close acquaintances to be convicted for accepting bribes given with the understanding that recipients would attempt to influence the behaviour of people close to them.

Current legislation regulating bribes dates from 1977 and has been criticized for being too complicated.

“It's been unclear. Now it will be more clear as to which people can be convicted,” Ask told the TT news agency.

The most practical consequence of the new law is the widening of the circle of people that can be convicted of bribery.

Currently, bribery investigations often languish over time spent determining whether or not someone suspected of bribery can actually be charged with a crime.

One of the most high profile cases, which inadvertently paved the way for the new bill, was a housing scandal in Gothenburg in 2011.

Olle Lundgren, the former head of municipal housing company Poseidon, allegedly received 24 tonnes of free bricks with an estimated market value of at least 85,000 kronor ($13,500) from contractor Weinerberger.

The Gothenburg corruption scandal also involved the municipal housing firm Familjebostäder and the city's sports and clubs division, as well as the relationship between construction magnate Stefan Allbäck and municipal officials.

A string of subsequent cases have also sharpened calls for better legislation.

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