Former Saab CEO arrested for tax crimes

Jan Åke Jonsson, the former CEO of Saab Automobile, and two top-level colleagues have been detained by police on suspicion of tax crimes.

Former Saab CEO arrested for tax crimes

The Vänersborg District Court in western Sweden told the TT news agency on Tuesday that Jonsson, the former Saab CEO, is one of three people suspected of serious tax crimes. He has been assigned a public defence lawyer, as have the two further suspects.

They are being investigated for their part in obstructing the tax authorities’ review of the company’s affairs during 2010 and 2011. If found guilty, the former Saab bosses risk spending four years in prison.

The time period for the suspected crimes corresponds to the Sweden-based automaker’s most turbulent time, when it was under ownership of the Dutch company Spyker. It was characterized by the company neither hitting sales target nor living up to financial predictions.

The company was declared bankrupt in December 2011.

The Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) handed in a report to the police in May 2012 about their suspicions.

On Monday, the three suspects were detained and kept separate from each other. After preliminary interrogations, they were remanded in custody.

“There have been attempts to conceal different things from the Tax Authority. It concerns actions taken when keeping accounts and it’s made the authority’s attempts to calculate tax and fees much more difficult,” said financial crimes prosecutor Olof Sahlgren.

“We are keeping them detained because the risk is that they get together to sync their stories.”

Other sources told TT that the crimes may concern how remuneration was paid out in a manner to avoid taxes.

Jonsson was released later on Tuesday, but the criminal suspicions against him remain. He denies committing any crimes.

Jonsson, 61, had a long history with the storied Swedish carmaker. He joined the company in the 1970s, working for Saab in Sweden, the United States, and Asia, and for then Saab owners General Motors’ (GM) Europe division. His primary areas of responsibility were IT, sales and development.

He rose to CEO in 2005 and tried to navigate Saab through the choppy waters when crisis-hit GM decided to pull the plug on Saab production.

Spyker Cars bought Saab in early 2010, when GM had already begun dismantling production. Pushing the refresh button on the company proved harder than thought, however, with sales not jump starting as hoped.

In March 2011, Jonsson cited private reasons for leaving the helm of the company. He was replaced by Victor Muller. Jonsson went on to several top-level board positions – including state-owned energy giant Vattenfall.

TT/The Local/at

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Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court

Swedish car maker Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson and the firm's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have appeared in court in Vänersborg in west Sweden, accused of falsifying financial documents shortly before the company went bankrupt in 2011.

Former Swedish Saab bosses appear in court
Saab's former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson. Photo: Karin Olander/TT
The pair are accused of falsifying the paperwork at the height of the Swedish company's financial difficulties at the start of the decade.
A third person – who has not been named in the Swedish media – is accused of assisting them by issuing false invoices adding up to a total of 30 million kronor ($3.55m).
According to court documents, the charges relate to the firm's business in Ukraine and the paperwork in question was signed just before former CEO Jan Åke Jonsson resigned.
Both Jonsson and Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers have admitted signing the papers but denied knowledge of the Ukranian firm implicated in the case.
All three suspects deny all the charges against them.

Saab's former head lawyer Kristina Geers. Photo:  Björn Larsson Rosvall/TT
Saab filed for bankruptcy at the end of 2011, after teetering on the edge of collapse for nearly two years.
Chief prosecutor Olof Sahlgren told the court in Vänersborg on Wednesday that the alleged crimes took place in March 2011, when Saab was briefly owned by the Dutch company Spyker Cars.
It was eventually bought by National Electric Vehicle Sweden (Nevs), a Chinese-owned company after hundreds of staff lost their jobs.
The car maker, which is based in west Sweden, has struggled to resolve serious financial difficulties by attracting new investors since the takeover.
In October 2014 it announced it had axed 155 workers, close to a third of its workforce.
Since 2000, Saab automobile has had no connection with the defence and aeronautics firm with the same name. It only produces one model today, the electric 9-3 Aero Sedan, mainly targeting the Chinese market.