The Vänersborg District Court in western Sweden told the TT news agency on Tuesday that Jonsson, the former Saab CEO, is one of three people suspected of serious tax crimes. He has been assigned a public defence lawyer, as have the two further suspects.
They are being investigated for their part in obstructing the tax authorities’ review of the company’s affairs during 2010 and 2011. If found guilty, the former Saab bosses risk spending four years in prison.
The time period for the suspected crimes corresponds to the Sweden-based automaker’s most turbulent time, when it was under ownership of the Dutch company Spyker. It was characterized by the company neither hitting sales target nor living up to financial predictions.
The company was declared bankrupt in December 2011.
The Swedish Tax Agency (Skatteverket) handed in a report to the police in May 2012 about their suspicions.
On Monday, the three suspects were detained and kept separate from each other. After preliminary interrogations, they were remanded in custody.
“There have been attempts to conceal different things from the Tax Authority. It concerns actions taken when keeping accounts and it’s made the authority’s attempts to calculate tax and fees much more difficult,” said financial crimes prosecutor Olof Sahlgren.
“We are keeping them detained because the risk is that they get together to sync their stories.”
Other sources told TT that the crimes may concern how remuneration was paid out in a manner to avoid taxes.
Jonsson was released later on Tuesday, but the criminal suspicions against him remain. He denies committing any crimes.
Jonsson, 61, had a long history with the storied Swedish carmaker. He joined the company in the 1970s, working for Saab in Sweden, the United States, and Asia, and for then Saab owners General Motors’ (GM) Europe division. His primary areas of responsibility were IT, sales and development.
He rose to CEO in 2005 and tried to navigate Saab through the choppy waters when crisis-hit GM decided to pull the plug on Saab production.
Spyker Cars bought Saab in early 2010, when GM had already begun dismantling production. Pushing the refresh button on the company proved harder than thought, however, with sales not jump starting as hoped.
In March 2011, Jonsson cited private reasons for leaving the helm of the company. He was replaced by Victor Muller. Jonsson went on to several top-level board positions – including state-owned energy giant Vattenfall.