Riksdag ‘burger bribe’ reported to police

Swedish hamburger chain Max has been reported to police on suspicions of trying to bribe members of parliament by sending them a gift card along with an invitation to come eat at the popular fast food restaurant.

Riksdag 'burger bribe' reported to police

“We think that lowering the value-added tax paid by restaurants is an appropriate measure,” wrote Max in a letter sent to each of the Riksdag’s 349 members, along with a gift certificate worth 100 kronor ($15).

But the move was met with criticism from several MPs.

“It seems like a clumsy attempt to try to buy sympathy among members of the Riksdag. It’s extremely upsetting,” Left Party MP Jens Holm told the TT news agency.

Now the campaign has been reported to police.

In the letter, Max CEO Richard Bergfors expressed his regret that the Riksdag’s own restaurant had opted not to lower its prices in the wake of a lowering of the value-added tax paid by restaurants from 25 percent to 12 percent, which took effect at the turn of the year.

He goes on to suggest hungry MPs to come eat at Max instead.

“For us at Max, it’s obvious that we should give the amount of the reduced value-added tax back to customers through lower prices,” he wrote.

According to Bergfors, Max expects to give 140 million kronor back to customers via reduced prices and to add 150 to 250 new jobs to deal with the expected increase in demand as a result of the tax reduction.

“A restaurant job is often a young person’s first step into the job market and that’s why the reform is important,” he wrote.

Social Democrat MP Eva-Lena Jansson plans on sending the gift certificate back to Max.

“I don’t think we’re the ones that need this gift certificate,” she told TT.

“I voted against the reduction because I think the money should instead have been used for education and labour market policies.”

Even the Moderate Party, a primary backer of the measure, has urged its MPs to refrain from using the gift card.

“We don’t think these sort of gifts are appropriate even if the amount is rather small,” Moderate spokesperson Petter Larsson told TT.

Left Party MP Ulla Andersson has reported the campaign to police, telling the lobbying trade publication that the gift cards “crossed the line”.

According to Max’s Bergfors, however, the thought never occurred to him that the PR stunt of sending gift cards to sitting members of parliaments could be interpreted as a bribery attempt.

An unapologetic Bergfors told the advertising trade publication Resume that the criticism was “ridiculous”, adding “it remains to be seen” if the campaign succeeds.

“The gift card was included with a letter with the message that the reduction of value-added tax for restaurants is very positive,” he told Resume.

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Maxed-out profits for Max burger joints

Sweden's father-and-sons burger empire Max raked home 126 million kronor ($19.2 million) after tax last year, as the chain of fast-food joints continues to increase its revenue by around 10 percent annually.

Maxed-out profits for Max burger joints

The business daily Dagens Industri (DI) reported on Wednesday that the family-owned business, lead by patriarch Curt Bergfors, decided to take out 100 million kronor in profits last year.

READ ALSO: Paul Connolly on northern Swedish cuisine: “The burger joints are, with one glittering example (the excellent Max chain), depressingly bad.”

Established in 1968, Max today has more than a hundred restaurants across Sweden – about half the number of McDonald’s outlets. There are also Max joints in Dubai, Norway, and Denmark.

READ ALSO: Swedish crowdfunders turn ‘likes’ into equity to launch Stockholm’s premier burger joint Flippin’ Burgers

The chain also decided to profit off the government lowering the restaurant VAT levels last year from 25 to 12 percent, a move that DI reported was felt in the company’s profits.

“We lowered our prices by the entire VAT reduction and kept prices stable all year,” son and CEO Richard Bergfors told the paper, adding that he thought his family company would come close to the 2012 revenue increase of 11 percent also this year.

“I think we’ll hit about 10 percent this year and will keep on taking on new staff at that same rate. Around the new year we should have about 3,500 employees in Sweden, I reckon,” Bergfors told DI. Richard and his two brothers – deputy CEO Christoffer and 14-year-old Wilhelm – own about 5 percent of the company each.

Also on Wednesday, the TT news agency reported that Burger King in Sweden had reported a 30-percent increase in profits in its second-quarter report, compared to last year. The surge defeated a forecasted 0.1-percent decrease.

Competitors McDonald’s recently published a profit report that failed to satisfy market expectations.

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