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POLICE

Swedish mob gets ‘savvy’ as pressure mounts

Criminal networks are increasingly savvy when hiding their money trail, according to Swedish tax authorities, who have employed the Al Capone model to go after gangsters' assets.

Swedish mob gets 'savvy' as pressure mounts

Sweden runs a multi-authority operation against organized crime since 2009, with police cooperating with several state agencies to target and combat organized crime networks.

The Al Capone model of fighting gangs entails national and regional police agencies nominating names of suspected criminals to authorities such as the Tax Agency (Skatteverket), project coordinator Pia Bergman told The Local.

“Organized crime can be motivated by a lust for power but much of it is about making money,” said Bergman, who works for the Tax Agency.

Much of the tax authorities work focuses on organized crimes networks that operate in industries perhaps not traditionally associated with the stereotypical image of the gun-touting, sex-selling mobster.

“There are many ties to unregistered labour, where there is a lot of money to be made,” Bergman said.

The networks’ activities range from sending out false invoices or faking disability or illness cases to cash in on welfare benefits, to operating in normal industries without paying taxes or social security contributions for the employees.

“The cases are becoming ever more complex,” Bergman said.

“We get better at investigating them but that forces the criminal underworld to modify its tactics.”

For example, some networks now use companies registered abroad in their operations. And as far as money laundering goes, the criminals have added several more steps to hide their trails.

“Ten years ago it was often a cash-in-hand, under-the-table operation, but now they are hiding behind documents, not only to make it look clean but to confuse us,” Bergman said.

“The facades of organized crime are neater and at the same time more complex.”

Since 2009, her unit has investigated 2,800 cases, pertaining to individuals or to specific groups.

According to a case review by regional newspaper Helsingborgs Dagblad, many of the cases have links directly to well-known gangs such as Bandidos, Outlaws, Black Cobra and the Syndicate Legion.

Many of their more prominent members lead “bling-bling” lives of luxury, with nothing to show for it on official tax records.

“They’re living large, out partying in the clubs but they don’t pay a single krona in tax,” said Bergman, who says articles about high-end nightclubs around Stockholm’s Stureplan sometimes offer clues.

Once her unit opens an investigation, they often ask a court to issue a “payment guarantee” (betalningssäkring), which makes it harder for suspects to hide the cash once they learn they are under investigation.

“I’d say we apply for it in 30 to 40 percent of cases, because if there is one thing we’ve learned it’s that cash disappears quickly,” Bergman said.

The aim is not only to recuperate outstanding taxes and disturb the money-motivated criminal networks, but to help legitimate Swedish companies that are forced to compete with illegal outfits.

“Last year we claimed back 1.3 billion kronor ($200 million). That money means a lot to taxpayers like you and me who would like to see it spent on better things. But I’d say serious companies also lose the same amount every year due to unfair competition.”

Ann Törnkvist

Follow Ann on Twitter here

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PROTESTS

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

The chairwoman of the Police Association West Region has said that police special tactics, known as Särskild polistaktik or SPT, should be available across Sweden, to use in demonstrations similar to those during the Easter weekend.

Calls for special police tactics to be available across Sweden

SPT, (Särskild polistaktik), is a tactic where the police work with communication rather than physical measures to reduce the risk of conflicts during events like demonstrations.

Tactics include knowledge about how social movements function and how crowds act, as well as understanding how individuals and groups act in a given situation. Police may attempt to engage in collaboration and trust building, which they are specially trained to do.

Katharina von Sydow, chairwoman of the Police Association West Region, told Swedish Radio P4 West that the concept should exist throughout the country.

“We have nothing to defend ourselves within 10 to 15 metres. We need tools to stop this type of violent riot without doing too much damage,” she said.

SPT is used in the West region, the South region and in Stockholm, which doesn’t cover all the places where the Easter weekend riots took place.

In the wake of the riots, police unions and the police’s chief safety representative had a meeting with the National Police Chief, Anders Tornberg, and demanded an evaluation of the police’s work. Katharina von Sydow now hopes that the tactics will be introduced everywhere.

“This concept must exist throughout the country”, she said.

During the Easter weekend around 200 people were involved in riots after a planned demonstration by anti-Muslim Danish politician Rasmus Paludan and his party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), that included the burning of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

Police revealed on Friday that at least 104 officers were injured in counter-demonstrations that they say were hijacked by criminal gangs intent on targeting the police. 

Forty people were arrested and police are continuing to investigate the violent riots for which they admitted they were unprepared. 

Paludan’s application for another demonstration this weekend was rejected by police.

In Norway on Saturday, police used tear gas against several people during a Koran-burning demonstration after hundreds of counter-demonstrators clashed with police in the town of Sandefjord.

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