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Swedish Academy member's husband accused of leaking names of seven Nobel Prize winners

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Swedish Academy member's husband accused of leaking names of seven Nobel Prize winners
The academy member's husband reportedly leaked the name of Bob Dylan in advance in 2016. Photo: David Vincent
14:40 CEST+02:00
The husband of a Swedish Academy member leaked the names of at least seven winners of the Nobel Prize for Literature in advance, including Bob Dylan in 2016, an investigation carried out for the Academy found.

The Swedish law firm Hammarskiöld & Co, which was appointed by the Academy to carry out the investigation, said its finding was backed by "seven witnesses which were both trustworthy and independent of one another," the Dagens Nyheter newspaper reported. 

Accusations of sexual harassment against the man, described as "the cultural profile" in the Swedish media, sparked a crisis at the Academy at the end of last year, leading in turn to further allegations about leaks and financial misconduct.

Three of the 18-member Swedish Academy said they would vacate their seats on Friday in protest over the committee's decision neither to expel the man's wife from the Academy, nor to report his alleged financial irregularities to the police, as recommended by Hammarskiöld.

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The Swedish Academy honouring 2017 Nobel Prize winner Kazuo Ishiguro. Photo: Stina Stjernkvist/TT

Their announcement led the Academy's secretary Sara Danius to hold an emergency meeting with King Carl XVI Gustaf at Drottningholm, his palace on the island of Lovön outside Stockholm.

"Problems are there to be solved, and I think that sooner or later that's what we will do," Carl XVI Gustaf told the TT newswire on Monday. "Just give it a bit of time.”"

Danius has come under pressure, with her predecessor as secretary Horace Engdahl on Tuesday writing in Expressen that "out of all the secretaries since 1786, she is the one who has least succeeded in her duties".

In an opinion piece published in the Svenska Dagbladet newspaper on Sunday, the eight members who voted against expelling the under-fire committee member defended their decision, pointing out that only one person had ever been expelled in the Academy's 223-year history. That person only lost their seat after they had been sentenced to death for conspiracy.

They also claimed that the evidence put forward by Hammarskiöld had been insufficiently robust.

"The only 'evidence' relied on in the law firm's investigation are witness statements from anonymous sources," the eight members wrote.

"This is for us a deeply shaky legal ground for any accusation whatsoever, but particularly for one when expulsion from the academy is the recommended consequence."

Nonetheless, on Tuesday, committee member Sture Allén told Swedish broadcaster SVT that the remaining members plan to hold an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss Danius' position. 

According to the law firm's investigation, which DN said had been read by all 18 members of the committee, the man began leaking the names of winners as far back in 1996, when he let slip in advance that the Polish poet Wislawa Szymborska had won the prestigious prize.

He is then said to have leaked the award of the Austrian playwright Elfriede Jelinek in 2004, the British playwright Harold Pinter in 2005, the French writer Jean-Marie Gustave Le Clézio in 2008, French novelist Patrick Modiano in 2014 and the Belarusian journalist Svetlana Aleksijevitj in 2015.

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A man thought to be Bob Dylan going to pick up his Nobel Prize in 2017. Photo: Jessica Gow/TT

The investigation also uncovered potential financial misconduct around a Stockholm cultural venue where the man served as creative director.

In the article published in SvD on Sunday, the eight committee members acknowledged that there was "strong and apparently unambiguous" evidence of financial impropriety, starting with the man's failure to disclose that he was a part-owner of the venue, which received significant funding from the Academy.

The investigation also criticised the couple's "improper use" of the Academy's Paris apartment, where the man reportedly attached his own name plate to the door.

Although Danius has stressed that the committee is not going to report the alleged financial improprieties to the police, she noted in an interview that others have the right to do so.

On Sunday, a spokesman for Stockholm police told Sweden's SVT broadcaster that a report had been made in connection to the Academy. 

On Tuesday, however, the Swedish Economic Crime Authority said that it did not plan to launch an investigation into the man. 

"We are not launching an investigation in response to this report because the information provided gave no reason to conclude that a crime had been committed," chief prosecutor Jan Tibbling said. 

 

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