November 22, 2017 / 11:07 AM / a year ago

Head of Swedish industry group quits after tax comments

STOCKHOLM, Nov 22 (Reuters) - Leif Ostling, the former head of truck maker Scania, will step as chairman of the Confederation of Swedish Enterprise after comments about the country’s tax system.

Swedes generally support the country’s income-tax system, where the top rate is among the highest in the world, and executive pay is a sensitive issue.

But in an interview on Swedish TV, Ostling - chairman of bearings maker SKF and one of the country’s best-paid business people - questioned whether he was getting his money’s worth from his tax payments.

“After a some reflection, I have decided that it is better that I leave the Confederation of Industry now, instead of in May next year,” Ostling, who took over as chairman in 2016, said.

The confederation is a business lobby that represents about 60,000 companies in Sweden.

“Swedish companies must be able to press for a better business climate, where taxes and fees are an important element, without that being deflected by a potential debate about me as a person,” Ostling said.

Ostling’s tax affairs have come under scrutiny since he was named in the “Paradise Papers” as having offshore accounts .

In an interview with Swedish TV, he said he had followed the law and paid his taxes in Sweden.

But he also irked many by saying that he had paid as much as “1,000 ordinary taxpayers”.

“You ask yourself, if you pay 20 to 30 million (crowns) a year, what on earth do I get for my money. It is not much.”

Ostling is renowned for clumsy comments, once saying that the Germans were “experts in lightening wars, but had also lost many of them”.

Reporting by Simon Johnson

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