Swedish trade union giant Kommunal, which also owns several properties in central Stockholm, was in trouble on Friday over claims that it had rented out its apartments to labour movement bosses while refusing to release them to the public housing queue.
According to the Aftonbladet daily, Foreign Minister Margot Wallström was one of the left's “high-profile figures” who in deference to their positions were rented apartments in the Swedish capital, bypassing a wait of on average eight years like ordinary renters.
The 61-year-old Social Democrat wasted no time in responding to the report, saying she had acted in good faith.
“Yes, I rent an apartment from Kommunal and when we spoke about it I got confirmation from the highest level that they followed all the rules and procedures in assigning apartments, and that I was not going to jump ahead of anyone on the waiting list,” she told Sweden's TT news agency.
“They lied to me about this… I am angry and disappointed,” Wallström added.
Her spokesman Erik Wirkensjö told TT that the minister has lived in the apartment since April and that it was offered to her during an informal discussion with the head of Kommunal. She later said she had terminated her lease and would be moving out.
But opposition politicians slammed the foreign minister's involvement.
“Stockholm has the world's longest housing queue, and I think it is remarkable that Social Democrats have their own fast lane where they can get apartments,” Robert Hannah, housing spokesperson for the centre-right Liberal party, told the TT newswire.
And the Swedish Anti-corruption Institute urged prosecutors to investigate if Wallström accepting an apartment from the country's biggest trade union constituted bribery.
“The mere suspicion is bad enough,” commented its secretary-general Helena Sundén.
The latest reports are part of an investigation by Aftonbladet which has seen Kommunal forced to defend itself against claims of porn shows, booze parties and costly travels. Its treasurer Anders Bergström stepped down on Thursday following the accusations.
Kommunal chairperson Annelie Nordström defended the organization at a press conference on Friday afternoon, and said that the foreign minister's rental contact was above board.
“Margot must have misunderstood. The apartment Margot Wallström has rented is something we use for temporary and short-term rentals. She hasn't jumped any queue and that is completely correct,” she said.