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Ex-CEO of Swedish bank to face trial over money-laundering scandal

The sacked CEO of Swedish banking giant Swedbank is set to face trial on fraud and market manipulation charges.

Ex-CEO of Swedish bank to face trial over money-laundering scandal
Former Swedbank CEO Birgitte Bonnesen, here pictured in 2019, denies the allegations. Photo: Janerik Henriksson/TT

Birgitte Bonnesen was fired in 2019 following allegations that the bank engaged in money-laundering in the Baltic state of Estonia.

Authorities believe Bonnesen attempted to cover up money-laundering by the bank in Sweden by diffusing “intentionally or by aggravated negligence (…) false information about the bank’s measures to prevent, detect, block and signal suspicions about money-laundering in (its) operations,” the prosecutor in charge of the investigation, Thomas Langrot, said in a statement.

In 2019, a documentary made by an investigative news programme for Swedish broadcaster SVT alleged that at least 40 billion kronor ($4.4 billion) of suspicious transactions had been channelled to Baltic countries from Swedbank accounts.

Bonnesen’s position as Swedbank’s chief executive became untenable following the allegations and she was fired.

Sweden’s financial regulator the following year fined the bank some 360 million euros and warned it to follow anti-money-laundering laws.

Bonnesen’s lawyer said she denies all of the charges against her.

The aggravated fraud charge carries a jail term of up to six years.

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CRIME

Swedish Green leader: ‘Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity’

The riots that rocked Swedish cities over the Easter holidays were nothing to do with religion or ethnicity, but instead come down to class, the joint leader of Sweden's Green Party has told The Local in an interview.

Swedish Green leader: 'Easter riots nothing to do with religion or ethnicity'

Ahead of a visit to the school in Rosengård that was damaged in the rioting, Märta Stenevi said that neither the Danish extremist Rasmus Paludan, who provoked the riots by burning copies of the Koran, nor those who rioted, injuring 104 policemen, were ultimately motivated by religion. 

“His demonstration had nothing to do with religion or with Islam. It has everything to do with being a right extremist and trying to to raise a lot of conflict between groups in Sweden,” she said of Paludan’s protests. 

“On the other side, the police have now stated that there were a lot of connections to organised crime and gangs, who see this as an opportunity to raise hell within their communities.”

Riots broke out in the Swedish cities of Malmö, Stockholm, Norrköping, Linköping and Landskrona over the Easter holidays as a result of Paludan’s tour of the cities, which saw him burn multiple copies of the Koran, the holy book of Islam. 

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More than 100 police officers were injured in the riots, sparking debates about hate-crime legislation and about law and order. 

According to Stenevi, the real cause of the disorder is the way inequality has increased in Sweden in recent decades. 

“If you have big chasms between the rich people and poor people in a country, you will also have a social upheaval and social disturbance. This is well-documented all across the world,” she says. 
 
“What we have done for the past three decades in Sweden is to create a wider and wider gap between those who have a lot and those who have nothing.” 

 
The worst way of reacting to the riots, she argues, is that of Sweden’s right-wing parties. 
 
“You cannot do it by punishment, by adding to the sense of outsider status, you have to start working on actually including people, and that happens through old-fashioned things such as education, and a proper minimum income, to lift people out of their poverty, not to keep them there.”

This, she says, is “ridiculous”, when the long-term solution lies in doing what Sweden did to end extreme inequality at the start of the 20th century, when it created the socialist folkhem, or “people’s home”. 

“It’s easy to forget that 100 to 150 years ago, Sweden was a developing country, with a huge class of poor people with no education whatsoever. And we did this huge lift of a whole nation. And we can do this again,” she says. “But it needs resources, it needs political will.” 
 
 
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