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PM halts probe into minister's stock trades

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PM halts probe into minister's stock trades
Swedish Migration Minister Tobias Billström. File photo: Paul Madej/TT
16:13 CET+01:00
The Swedish prime minister has prevented access to information about beleaguered colleague Tobias Billström's stock trading, despite a criminal probe into insider trading.

Broadcaster TV4 tried to get information about Billström's trade in shares in the company Lappland Goldminers, but the government chose not to lift the information's classified status. While the broadcaster reported that it had accessed similar information in the past, the government denied any irregularity.

"It was decided in the 1990s that government ministers would make public their shares and fund ownership," the prime minister's press secretary Daniel Valiollahi told The Local on Friday. "The information requested, however, is not covered by that decision and is classified." 

Valiollahi declined to answer whether the government had considered making an exception in the case of Billström, given the extreme turbulence about the minister's trading behaviour concering another mining company earlier in the autumn.

"There are rules, those rules are in places, and that is also the case in this case," the press secretary commented. 
 
Billström's spokeswoman Bodil Sidén told The Local that there would be no further comments on the latest twist in Swedish media's probe into the migration minister's financial portfolio. 
 
While television channel TV4 has underscored that the rebuttal was signed by Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt, Valiollahi argued that it was routine paper exercise that the PM sign off on government decisions. He added that similar information request had been received both regarding ministers and Rosenbad public servants. They were also declined. 
 
Not so, according to TV4, however, who said it had successfully accessed the same kind of information about Billström earlier in the year. In that case, it gave the reporters access to purchase date that allowed them to pinpoint a 30,000-shares buy from ailing Northland Resources. Billström's purchase took place five days after after state-owned mining giant LKAB's decision to wade in and save the floundering firm.

The Economic Crimes Bureau (Ekobrottsmyndigheten - EBM) and the Financial Supervisory Authority (Finansinspektionen - Fi) in October launched a joint investigation into whether Billström had access to insider information when he bought shares in the ailing mining company Northland Resources. The probe was later closed without further action taken.

Billström has maintained that a trustee, rather than he himself personally, managed his stock portfolio. Billström did respond to broadcaster TV4's report into the suspected insider trading by admitting that "it might look strange" but denied all wrongdoing. 

His colleague Peter Norman, the Swedish financial markets minister, said that while he had access to information on the bailout, he did not know whether Billström had been privy to details concerning the rescue package.

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