Housing chief denies taking any bribes

The first indictment in the bribery scandal that rocked Gothenburg last year was submitted on Tuesday by the regional prosecutor.

Housing chief denies taking any bribes

The scandal involves the Gothenburg municipal housing firm Familjebostäder and the city’s sports and clubs division, as well as the relationship between construction magnate Stefan Allbäck and municipal officials.

The indictment on Tuesday concerns, Olle Lundgren, the former head of municipal housing company Poseidon, who allegedly received free bricks for his house from contractor Wienerberger.

“I have not done anything criminal,” Lundgren said on Tuesday.

According to the indictment, Lundgren received nearly 24 tonnes of bricks from Wienerberger with an estimated market value of at least 85,000 kronor ($12,750).

Ollegren’s own wife alerted authorities to the alleged bribe, and is scheduled to testify against her husband in the case.

Regional prosecutor Nils-Eric Schultz believes that his office has enough evidence for the case to proceed.

“I have information on how the bricks were invoiced with the brick company. I can see, just as the notifier wrote, that the bricks were not paid for. And it is also clear from the documentation of the brick company,” he said.

“During questioning, a number of people at the company confirmed that the bricks were given for free to the accused,” he added.

Schultz said that Lundgren’s job as a top official with Poseidon boosted suspicions that the free bricks were offered by Wienerberger in the expectation that the company would receive favourable treatment in bidding for contracts from the municipal housing firm, the expressen newspaper reports.

Schultz chose to personally hand the charges in to the district court.

“Since I am in Gothenburg, it is the smoothest way,” he said on Tuesday.

The former director has continued to deny the charges.

“I know what has been uncovered in the preliminary investigation and I know what I have done. Based on that and the discussions I have had with my attorney, we believe that I am innocent. I have not done anything wrong,” he told news agency TT on Tuesday.

Schultz believes that Lundgren received bricks worth nearly 100,000 kronor for his home.

When asked if he had paid for the the bricks, Lundgren said, “I paid, but evidently, they think that I have paid too little.”

Pressed about the actual amount, he answered, “It is evident from the preliminary investigation.”

Lundgren’s attorney Anders Munck said that his client denies all the criminal allegations against him and that he had no intention of taking advantage of any benefits.

According to Munck, Lundgren simply built a house and has received a number of bills, all of which he has paid in full.

“Now, eight years later, it appears that the brick supplier was not paid in full, but this is something my client had no knowledge of. When the criminal allegations were brought against him, he was convinced he had acted properly,” he said.

When the preliminary investigation against him began in October, Lundgren decided to take a leave of absence from his current position as CEO of a new municipal corporation pending the outcome of the investigation and legal process.

Asked what will happened if he is convicted, Lundgren said, “I do not know. However, I assume that I will not be convicted. It is really a matter for the board. It is not me who decides that.”

In terms of his daily activities, “I am not waiting around. I work at the company, where I help the acting CEO and work on other issues within the company. I have a lot to do.”

There are presently 10 ongoing preliminary investigations into suspicions of the receipt of bribes within municipal companies and management in Gothenburg. The next indictment will take place in two to three weeks, according to Schultz.

He estimated that about a total of 30 people may be prosecuted.

The first receipt of bribes was uncovered in April 2010 by SVT’s investigative news programme Uppdrag granskning and newspaper Göteborgs-Tidningen (GT).

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Why is Gothenburg known as Sweden’s ‘Little London’?

With ties to Britain dating back more than 200 years, the city of Gothenburg has long been known as Sweden’s Little London.

Why is Gothenburg known as Sweden’s 'Little London'?

Grey skies, rainy days, a wide-mouthed river, and a love for English pubs. At first glance, it’s no wonder that Gothenburg has long held the nickname of Sweden’s own “Little London”, or Lilla London

But what are the origins of this British title?

“The nickname ‘Little London’ was first used in a newspaper in 1766,” explains Håkan Strömberg, educational officer at the Museum of Gothenburg.

“The Brits were the largest immigration group during the 1700s and early 1800s, mainly because Sweden was a country close by, it was economically underdeveloped compared to England and Scotland and had a lot of raw materials. To put it simply, could make some money here.”

The city’s reputation as a British enclave dates back to the 1700s when trade brought many foreign influences to the Västra Götaland region.

As merchants and shipbuilders like Charles Chapman, David Carnegie, and James Dickson moved to the area, local residents began to notice a growing list of similarities between the Swedish port city and the British capital.

Indeed, even one of Sweden’s most renowned scientists, Carl Von Linné, is said to have commented on the similarities between the two cities when he visited Gothenburg in the 1700s.

 “Being a group of upper-class immigrants, the British merchants made sure they had access to all the good things from their home country. But the feeling of Gothenburg as a Little London was most likely something the Swedish citizens had, rather than the Brits,” adds Strömberg. 

The historical roots that connect the UK and Gothenburg are still evident today, with many spots in the city still alluding to British names, like Chalmers University – founded by the son of a wealthy Scottish industrialist, or Chapmans Torgnamed after a family of sailors and shipbuilders once well-established in the area. 

Catriona Chaplin, a British expat turned Gothenburger, only began to see the similarities and know of the nickname after relocating to the region for work. Growing up in Leicestershire, central England, she’d never heard of London’s Swedish sibling city.

“We came to Gothenburg 17 years ago. We’d never heard about [the nickname] until we moved here, but there is a bar on Avenyn called Lilla London, so that’s when we started to know about it,” she says.

Today, as the membership secretary of the British Club of Gothenburg, she brings a taste of the British Isles to life in Gothenburg.

The Club, which organises social events like concerts, quiz nights, and theatre performances, has a membership base of nearly 200 families. And although less than 0.5 percent of Gothenburg’s population today was born in the UK, the club welcomes members from a range of nationalities.

In fact, the only membership requirement is having some kind of interest in the UK, be it from a cultural standpoint, a past tourist experience, or a love of the language. 

“People come to the British Club just to socialise in their native language. It’s also about the culture, like the banter, the jokes and playing on words,” she says. 

Although the city’s British roots run deep, questions remain about modern-day Gothenburg’s status as “Little London”.

To some, the west-coast maritime hub’s industrial legacy, strong working-class culture, and amiable nature are reminiscent of a different English city. “They ought to call it ‘Little Liverpool’!” says Chaplin, with a smile. 

Lasting Landmarks

Evidence of Gothenburg’s British connections can be found in many of its landmarks, shops, and of course, pubs. Some of the historical hotspots still apparent today include:

Haga – The British ‘hood 

The area of Haga, just outside the old city, was once considered a slum, but changed character thanks to British philanthropist Robert Dickson (1782-1858), who built public baths, a library, and other landmarks with the typical red bricks found in Britain at the time.

St Andrew’s Church 

A key part of the British community is the Anglican church of Saint Andrew’s, also in Haga. Dedicated to the patron saint of Scotland, it was built and to date funded by ‘The British Factory’, a British society founded in the 1700s to help expats in Gothenburg that remains active even today.

The Victorian gothic style of the church is in line with the architectural trend in Britain at the time. 

John Scott – a legend among Gothenburgers

One of Gothenburg’s most well-loved establishments is John Scott’s, a local pub chain named after Pastor John Henry Scott, an Englishman and prominent landowner in 18th century Gothenburg. 

The “English quarter”

The square of buildings delineated by Teatergatan, Storgatan, Kungsportsavenyn and Vasagatan was once known as the city’s English Quarter. The buildings in this neighbourhood are influenced by British design, and the original landowners were in fact English pastor John Henry Scott and his wife, Jacobina.

By Alexander Maxia, Lisa Ostrowski and Sanna Sailer