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Sweden stand by Aregawi despite tax controversy

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STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Sweden’s Ethiopian-born 1,500 meters runner Abeba Aregawi can run for Sweden at the upcoming World Indoor Championships in Portland despite a storm over her Swedish citizenship and tax affairs, officials said on Saturday.

Swedish newspaper Expressen reported that Aregawi, who is due to defend her title in Oregon next month, had told Sweden’s migration board that she was resident in the country to gain citizenship but during a recent tax investigation into her affairs she said she had never lived there.

Sweden’s Athletics Association general secretary Stefan Olsson told Reuters the controversy would not affect Aregawi’s participation in Portland but she would be asked to explain the situation.

“She has done the right thing, the migration board have made their judgment and the tax authority have made theirs. At the moment there is nothing to suggest that it will affect her sporting efforts,” Olsson said in a telephone interview.

“As long as the authorities have said that everything is okay, we have no reason to do anything else. On the other hand, we work a lot with confidence and trust and we want to be able to trust what people say in different contexts.”

Olsson said the association would contact Aregawi to hear her side of the story.

Expressen reported on Saturday that Aregawi, who also won the world outdoor 1,500 title in 2013, had told Swedish tax authorities that she was not liable for tax as she had never lived in the country.

This was at odds with a citizenship application made by the 25-year-old which entitled her to start competing for Sweden in 2012, according to the tax authority.

Describing her explanation as “somewhat strange”, tax authority documents showed Aregawi blamed language issues for the inconsistencies, Expressen said, adding that tax officials had ordered her to pay 11,112 Swedish crowns ($1,299.57) in back taxes.

Editing by Clare Fallon