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Swedish cow-theft farmer faces fraud charge

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Swedish cow-theft farmer faces fraud charge
16:30 CET+01:00
A Swedish farmer who woke up to find his 69 cows missing last year was charged on Monday for insurance fraud, as investigators suspect the man simply spirited the cattle away to cash in on insurance money to the tune of 550,000 kronor ($48,000).

The farm is next door to former prime minister Göran Persson's house in the picturesque countryside near the tiny town of Stjärnhov. Local police in Södermanland county, south of Stockholm, were astounded by the reported theft just days before Christmas last year.

"It must have taken a very long time to load them," county police spokesman Roland Lindqvist told Aftonbladet at the time. "People who are used to loading could have done it in about two hours, but if you're not experienced it would have taken much longer. 

The bereaved farmer, meanwhile, posed with his empty barn in the newspapers and said the theft represented an "economic disaster" for his farm. 

Almost a year later, however, the farmer was charged with suspected insurance fraud. The farmer on Tuesday maintained his innocence, and his defence lawyer underlined in an interview with tabloid Expressen that his client had never asked his insurance company to pay out the money. 

"He never asked for compensation for the cows, he just checked with the insurance company what insurance he had," said defence lawyer Leif Gustafson. "I assume that he will be found not guilty."

One person who has taken a particular interest in the case is criminology professor and TV personality Leif G.W. Persson. At an earlier stage in the investigation, he told police that three of the 45-year-old farmers' neighbours had told him in private that they bought meat illegally from the farm. 

The prosecutor, meanwhile, said he was convinced he had enough evidence to take the farmer to court over his troupe of missing cows. 

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