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Bildt accused of aiding Russia in legal dispute

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Bildt accused of aiding Russia in legal dispute
15:17 CEST+02:00
Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt is suspected of interfering with the work of an independent Swedish agency to help Russia in a legal dispute in Sweden, a parliamentary committee said Friday.

"We've received a request to examine the actions of the foreign minister," Ann Charlotte Bragsjoe, a spokeswoman for KU, the committee which scrutinizes the actions of government ministers, said.

The matter concerns the Swedish repossession authority's planned sale of a building in Stockholm owned by Russia.

A German businessman, Franz Sedelmayer, saw his Saint Petersburg business expropriated by Russia in the mid-1990s. The seizure was brought before a Stockholm arbitration court, which ruled it illegal in 1998, Sedelmayer told AFP.

The court ordered Russia to pay Sedelmayer 30 million kronor ($4.5 million), plus court costs, for a total of around 40 million kronor.

Moscow refused to pay, and the matter was in 2003 taken to the Swedish repossession agency, the Enforcement Authority, which has seized the Stockholm building and plans to sell it in order to pay the Russian debt to Sedelmayer.

The Swedish Supreme Court in July 2011 ruled there was no legal reason to halt the sale.

The head of the opposition Green Party, Aasa Romson, accused Bildt of "ministerial interference" after he wrote a letter to the authority on July 27 claiming that the sale would harm Sweden's ties with Russia.

"He did it for Russia," Sedelmayer charged.

On his blog, Bildt wrote: "I strongly welcome (the parliamentary examination of the issue), as it may lead to improved knowledge of these very important issues."

Meanwhile, a spokewoman for the agency, Maria Mindhammar, told AFP "there is nothing notable" about the letter.

"It is not an attempt to influence us," but rather a normal exchange as the foreign ministry is specialised in diplomatic issues, she said.

The sale is scheduled for September 7.

The parliamentary committee is due to examine the matter in the spring of 2013, Bragsjoe said.

If found guilty of wrongdoing, Bildt risks a reprimand but it is unlikely there would be any other consequences.

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