January 27, 2017 / 9:00 PM / 3 years ago

Swedish ex-finance minister and tycoon named suspects in bribery case

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Fredrik Lundberg, one of Sweden’s most powerful tycoons, and former finance minister Anders Borg have been questioned by prosecutors as suspects in a bribery probe.

FILE PHOTO: Swedish businessman Fredrik Lundberg is pictured in this file photo received March 18, 2016. TT NEWS AGENCY/Christine Olsson/via REUTERS/File Photo

Forestry firm Holmen, where Lundberg is chairman, said Lundberg was suspected of offering a bribe related to hunting events arranged by Holmen. Borg is suspected of taking a bribe at a hunt in 2014, the prosecutors’ anti-corruption unit said, without giving further details.

Both men deny any wrongdoing and neither have been charged with any crimes.

“I suspect the hunt is connected to (Borg’s) position as a member of the government,” Alf Johansson, prosecutor at the Swedish Prosecution Authority’s anti-corruption unit, told Reuters on Friday.

The prosecutor did not elaborate further on the specifics about the case.

Borg’s lawyer Hans Strandberg denied that Borg’s participation in the hunt would have constituted accepting a bribe because he was intending to pay for himself when he accepted the invitation and was out of office by the time the event happened.

Holmen said in a statement on Thursday night that Lundberg was being questioned as a suspect.

The company’s CEO Henrik Sjolund told Reuters on Friday that hunting events were customary for a company that owns a lot of forests and had been good for the company’s networking and its brand for many years. 

“If the prosecutor would draw another conclusion we will have to adapt to that in the future, but that is not where we are today,” Sjolund told Reuters.

“We believe we have complied with the applicable rules, both us, Holmen, as well as Fredrik Lundberg,” he said.

After inheriting his construction and property holding firm Lundbergforetagen from his father in the 1980s, Lundberg has shown steadily rising returns and steadily expanded his power in Swedish business.

Lundbergforetagen is the biggest shareholder in Holmen and also Industrivarden, which has major stakes in Swedish blue chips such as telecommunications firm Ericsson, truck maker Volvo and lender Handelsbanken.

Lundberg said in a statement sent by Lundbergforetagen: “I am convinced that both Holmen and I have managed everything correctly and that no violations have occurred.”

Borg’s lawyer Strandberg said the invitation to Borg to attend the hunt was made in spring 2014 but his centre-right government lost an election and he attended the hunt in mid-October after having left his post as a minister.

“It has no connection whatsoever really to his finance minister post,” Strandberg told Reuters. “He denies that he would have done anything wrong.”

Reuters was unable to immediately determine what the law stipulates.

Borg was one of Europe’s best known finance ministers. After serving in two consecutive centre-right governments between 2006 and 2014 he entered the corporate sector. He is deputy chairman of investment company Kinnevik and became an adviser for Citigroup in 2015.

Reporting by Daniel Dickson and Johan Ahlander; Editing by Alistair Scrutton and Alison Williams

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