Two men sentenced in Sweden for human trafficking

Two men were sentenced to more than four years in jail on Monday for human trafficking, after they brought ten people to Sweden with the promise of employment, then kept them in "slave-like" conditions and forced them to beg for money.

Two men sentenced in Sweden for human trafficking
Presiding judge Per Grevesmühl speaks to press after the verdict. Photo: Pavel Koubek / TT

The court's presiding judge, Per Grevesmühl, told a press conference that the men's actions were “a form of organized crime”.

Both men, aged 49 and 42, were Bulgarian citizens who brought ten people from their home country to Sweden after promising them work in the construction industry.

But when they arrived in Sweden, they were forced to live in a decrepit industrial state in Örebro county, where the windows were broken and the only heat source was a wood-burning stove in the basement.

Several of the men were illiterate and told police that they felt like prisoners. They were also made to beg for money in order to pay their captors for the journey to Sweden, and had to hand over the money they made.

Now the two Bulgarians have been sentenced to four years and two months in jail for human trafficking.

READ ALSO: Journalist facing trial is 'confident' he was right to help refugee boy

Hans Swärd, professor of social work at Lund University, noted that the vulnerability of people in a foreign environment is one factor which has made forced begging possible for so long.

“There is resistance and fear of the authorities. Then there is certainly shame about accepting this. You don't turn for help from outside,” he said.

Swärd added that much of the crime affecting vulnerable EU migrants happens in a legal vacuum and that these groups need extra support. He said the sentencing of the pair sent a clear signal.

Per Grevesmühl, the presiding judge, said that the exploitation of vulnerability was central to the judgement. 

“Many of these people lived in difficult conditions in their home country, and even when they came here,” he said.

He also said that human trafficking is a crime rarely tried in court, and district prosecutor Jenny Clemedtson said the investigation required several authorities to work together.

“There has been international cooperation, both between police and international organizations working with migration and which helped locate the plaintiffs,” she said.

READ ALSO: Sweden jails Bulgarians for begging ring


Swedish court clears former Swedbank CEO of fraud charges

Birgitte Bonnesen, a former CEO of Swedish bank Swedbank, has been acquitted of charges of fraud and sharing insider information.

Swedish court clears former Swedbank CEO of fraud charges

The ruling from the Stockholm District Court comes four years after the eruption of a money laundering scandal implicating the bank.

In 2019, Swedish public service broadcaster SVT alleged that at least 40 billion kronor (equivalent at the time to $4.4 billion) of suspicious and high-risk transactions had been channelled to Baltic countries, notably Estonia, from Swedbank accounts.

The revelations, which saw the bank’s share price crumble, rendered Bonnesen’s position untenable 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.

Prosecutors later charged Bonnesen, accusing her of “intentionally or by aggravated negligence” providing false or misleading information about the steps the bank had taken to prevent and detect suspected money laundering.

Bonnesen, who risked two years in prison, denied all of the charges against her.

The court said that while some of the statements the former CEO made to media outlets had been “unclear and incomplete”, they did not amount to fraud.

“For criminal liability, it is not enough for someone to make a false statement or omit key information,” judge Malou Lindblom said, adding that any statement needed to be sufficient to influence recipients “in a certain direction”.

Bonnesen was also cleared of charges of revealing insider information by informing the bank’s main owners that the investigative documentary was coming.

The court said the former CEO had only revealed what she believed the documentary would cover, which was deemed too “imprecise” to be considered insider information.