Student loans body hunts overseas defaulters

The Swedish student loans body (CSN) has announced that it is to intensify its work to track down defaulting debtors resident overseas.

The hunt will be extended to a further 10 countries in 2009 and make use of new means to track down the defaulters, according to the newspaper Sydsvenskan.

CSN has sought the help of experts who will search internet databases, including Facebook, and other community websites, to try to unearth information of the debtors’ whereabouts.

CSN has also recruited detectives to trace defaulters with Greece, Australia and France included in 2009 on a test basis.

“The registration of residents is constructed very differently in different countries. In some countries one can not just walk into a state authority and ask for the details,” CSN press secretary Klas Elfving told the newspaper.

“It is a prioritized part of our operative planning this year to open and examine these cases to see if we can locate the people.”

CSN is currently missing the address information for some 20,000 debtors. Their total debts amount to 2.7 billion kronor ($340 million).

This amounts to a small fraction of the total 180 billion kronor loaned by CSN.

“But this remains a significant amount of money and should be collected,” Klas Elfving said to the newspaper.

The Local reported in December that Swedish state auditors had launched a stinging criticism of the student loans body for failing to chase up the debts of those living abroad.

According to a report submitted by the Swedish National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen), one out of every four clients living outside of Sweden missed payments in 2008.

In the coming year, grants and loans amounting to 1.3 billion kronor ($167 million) will be written off by CSN as bad debts, the audit office forecast.

CSN plans to expand an existing agreement with collection agency Intrum Justitia to track down debts through legal channels in Germany, Switzerland, France, the Netherlands, Iceland, Italy, Spain, Ireland, Belgium and Portugal.

The current agreement covers Scandinavia and Britain.

“We are the first authority of the state authorities to claim debts overseas. This is virgin territory with regard to the state agencies, Elfving observed.

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