UPDATE 1-Sweden detains ex-Saab executives in tax investigation

Tue May 21, 2013 11:26am EDT

* Prosecutors probes tax crimes at bankrupt car maker

* Former CEO, others detained, questioned, set free

* Saab collapsed in late 2011

STOCKHOLM, May 21 (Reuters) - Swedish prosecutors have questioned the former head of bankrupt car maker Saab and two others in an investigation into suspected tax offences relating to the running of the company, officials said on Tuesday.

Prosecutors are looking into allegations that executives at Saab, which collapsed in 2011, obstructed proper tax checks over the years 2010 to 2011, a turbulent time for the company, when it was sold by General Motors to small Dutch sports car maker Spyker, and when problems which led to its collapse emerged.

In documents released by Vanersborg court in western Sweden, home to the former car maker, the prosecutor said former chief executive Jan-Ake Jonsson, former chief financial officer Karl-Gustav Lindstrom and former chief legal officer Kristina Geers had been detained for questioning in the investigation.

"My client denies any crime," lawyer Helena Wising, acting for Jonsson, told Reuters by telephone.

The only detail she provided about the prosecutor's allegations was that it concerned billing within Saab.

The three were detained for questioning, but late on Tuesday they were all released as the investigation continued.

Neither of the other defendants or their lawyers were immediately available for comment, but lawyers for Geers and Lindstrom also denied their clients' guilt to public radio.

"I am shocked and saddened that she (Geers) was detained," Geers' lawyer Bengt-Erik Sik told local radio.

The Financial Crimes Unit has given no details of exactly what it alleges the three did to prevent the tax office carrying out its checks. But the chief prosecutor at the unit leading the investigation, Olof Sahlgren, said it involves measures being taken when company accounts were drawn up.

"An attempt has been made to hide things from the tax office," he told public radio.

Saab, a maker of cars since 1947, crashed into bankruptcy at the end of 2011, less than two years after General Motors sold it to Dutch sportscar group Spyker.

Spyker soon hit financing problems and spent months stitching together deals with Chinese companies.

GM, which retained licensing rights and operates in China in a partnership with state-run automaker SAIC Motor Corp Ltd , late in 2011 effectively blocked deals with other Chinese companies.

Spyker has filed to sue GM for $3 billion, saying it deliberately let Saab go under. GM has rejected the allegation.

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