Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Swihoniz ("One's Own"), Part 4

In Part 3, we looked at recent allegations of corruption in Sweden, and compared that to perceptions among Swedes of corruption in their country.

Let's review recent history of what has been happening in Sweden.

First, from New Swedish government struggles with corruption, October 18, 2006:

Sweden's new center-right government got off to a rocky start as two ministers resigned within 10 days of taking office after revelations surfaced about secrets from their past.

The ministers resigned after allegations surfaced that they failed to pay for TV licenses and illegally hired nannies, forcing Swedish Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt to learn the bitter lesson that there is nothing tax-burdened Swedes despise more than when the privileged cheat the system.


Culture Minister Cecilia Stego Chilo, 47, resigned on Monday, a week after Swedish media reported she had skipped paying her TV license fee for 16 years and evaded taxes by paying a nanny under the table.


Every household with a TV set is required to pay the annual fee of about 1,500 kronor (US$200), which is the main source of funding for Sweden's public radio and television. Many believe Stego Chilo refused to pay the fee on ideological grounds.

"As culture minister she is politically responsible for public service," said Lena Mellin, a political columnist who writes for the tabloid Aftonbladet.

"That she for 16 years didn't think it was necessary to pay is hard to understand," she said.

Stego Chilo's resignation came just two days after Trade Minister Maria Borelius dropped out of the Cabinet on similar allegations, causing embarrassment for Reinfeldt's four-party coalition, which took power on Oct. 6 and ended 12 years of Social Democratic rule.

Borelius acknowledged that she also had hired a nanny in the 1990s without reporting it to tax authorities or paying the required employment fees.

It's a classic case of the privileged elite not abiding by the same rules that govern the rest of us - just like we have in the United States these days.

From Sweden's squeaky-clean image sullied by scandals, dated May 11, 2007, by Ivar Ekman:

STOCKHOLM — Up north, where the air is fresh, traffic orderly and the government efficient, corruption has no home. Or does it?

A slew of alleged bribery scandals involving major Swedish companies has surfaced in recent months, challenging Sweden's image - both at home and abroad - as virtually squeaky clean.

The country's new anti-corruption chief, Christer van der Kwast, is looking this week into allegations that Saab offered huge, secret "commissions" to promote the sale of its Gripen fighter jet to the Czech Republic and Austria.

At the same time, the Swedish construction company Skanska has become the focal point of a growing scandal in Argentina, which threatens to engulf the government of President Néstor Kirchner.

Kickbacks, related to the BAE scandal in the UK.

From Sweden: Uncovering the Secret Deals: How reporters exposed massive corruption in one of Sweden's biggest arms deals, dated March 10, 2009:

More than five years ago, a team of Swedish investigative journalists got a tip from an anonymous source that there was something illegal at the heart of one of Sweden's biggest arms deals. The Swedish aerospace company, Saab (unrelated to the car manufacturer of the same name) and the British defense contractor, BAE Systems, had been negotiating to sell a number of Gripen jet fighters to the Czech Republic. Rumors of improprieties had surfaced around previous Gripen deals, but nothing had ever been proven. The source that came forward had worked on the Gripen deal in The Czech Republic, and claimed that he had intimate details of how a systematic campaign of illegal payments had been used to influence politicians.

The subsequent deal to lease Gripen jet fighters was important not only for the aircraft manufacturers, but also for the Swedish government. The Gripen project has become the largest industrial venture in Sweden, costing Swedish taxpayers an estimated $15 billion, and the government was anxious to offset some of the financial burden. With the Czech deal, it was also a chance for Sweden to break into the NATO market for the first time.

The reporters' investigation culminated in the documentary series, "Gripen: The Secret Deals," which uncovered a massive network of alleged bribes, shell corporations and secret contracts around the marketing of the Gripen aircraft. Using hidden cameras, the reporters posed as business intelligence agents and were able to capture what seems to be an on-air confirmation from Jan Kavan, a prominent Czech politician and former president of the United Nations General Assembly, describing how Czech politicians across the political spectrum had accepted bribes to approve the Gripen deal. The reporters also tracked down an array of contracts signed by the then-marketing director of Saab, which detailed multimillion dollar commissions promised to agents if the deal was successful.

Finally, the matter is summarized in a comment on a disccussion board entitled Public corruption in Sweden: Police dossiers sold to criminals and reporters, dated August 9, 2009:

Given the latest revalations in DN and Svenska Dagbladet that individuals in Stockholms Police Dept. have been selling detailed dossiers on criminals to criminals and reporters and following on the claims of a senior, Swedish crime journalist on newsmill that the practice is endemic what does it say about "modern Sweden"?

Just a few years ago the country's two largest construction companies NCC and Skanska were found guilty of cartel pricing and bribing of public officials at the Vägverket to win contracts. The Competition authority notably did not extend it's investigation into other business areas which NCC and Skanaska have been active in presumably because of a lack of evidence.

Bofors and the Swedish Police in the 1980's refused to cooperate with Indian police investigations into the bribery of Indian members of parliament being encouraged to purchase Swedish artillery.

More recently SAAB avionics and British Aerospace have been implicated in the bribery of Czech members of parliament being enticed to purchase the JAS Gripen aircraft system.

Sweden's official image portrays a non-corrupt culture however anecdotal evidence and the examples above would suggest something else.

Power corrupts.

As government takes more and more money from the people, it implicitly takes more and more power - economic, at least. That means more and more opportunities for corruption.

As government offers more hand-outs, subsidies, and entitlements, people become less and less independent, and thus less willing and even less able to control their government.

It is no accident that, over the past several decades, the United States federal government has moved into so many areas that it was never Constitutionally allowed to move into, and, as this has happened, corruption has become more rampant, and the American people have become more weakened. As a society, we are increasingly helpless before our government; we are the junkies, looking for our next fix from an abusive overlord, a fearsome master that we dare not defy.

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