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CRIME

Sweden’s first case against an overpriced rental goes to court – two years after law change

For the first time, a Swedish landlord has been prosecuted for overcharging their tenant and subletting their apartment without permission from their own landlord.

Sweden's first case against an overpriced rental goes to court – two years after law change
The tenant was charged around 3,000 kronor more each month than the price allowed by law. Photo: Henrik Montgomery/TT

Sweden tightened its rules on subletting in October 2019, introducing a maximum two-year jail sentence for people found guilty of overcharging their tenants.

The landlord who is first to be prosecuted under the new laws is a man in his 40s, according to Hem & Hyra which was first to report on the case.

He was paying 6,527 kronor in monthly rent for the apartment in Hässelby, northern Stockholm, and the law states that a secondhand tenant or subletter should only be charged around 10-15 percent more than this (to cover bills and furniture). Instead, he allegedly charged at least two tenants 10,500 kronor.

The rules for people who own their apartment and sublet it are slightly different, since the base amount can be calculated based on what it would cost to get a new mortgage on the apartment, which means that subletting from someone who owns their apartment is often more expensive than subletting from someone who rents.

The case in Hässelby came to light after neighbours informed the property owner last winter that there were a lot of non-residents coming to and from the apartment. 

Then, the company that owns the apartment asked one neighbour to keep a log of who was living in the apartment and when moving companies were seen, which they then provided to police. Additional evidence included the advert for the sublet on classifieds site Blocket as well as text messages between the subletter and his tenants. The man denied the allegations when questioned by police.

As well as overcharging for the monthly rent, the charges allege that the landlord had not requested permission to sublet from the housing company, which is compulsory in Sweden. Secondhand tenants should always ask to see proof of this permission being granted, as well as a breakdown of the costs, to guard against illegal sublets.

The punishment for illegal sublets can include fines or even a jail sentence for the landlord, of up to two years.

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CRIME

Swedish spy scandal: Two brothers jailed for passing secrets to Russia

A Swedish court has locked a Swedish-Iranian man up for life – and sentenced his brother to almost ten years in jail – in what's been described as the most serious spy scandal in modern Swedish history.

Swedish spy scandal: Two brothers jailed for passing secrets to Russia

Stockholm District Court on Thursday sentenced Peyman Kia, 42, to life in jail and his brother Payam Kia, 35, to nine years and ten months for aggravated espionage.

Peyman Kia is a former intelligence official who worked for Sweden’s security police, Säpo, as well as the Swedish Armed Forces and their military intelligence service, Must, for years.

The brothers had “together and in concertation, illegally and for the benefit of Russia and the GRU, acquired, transmitted and disclosed information whose disclosure to a foreign power could harm Sweden’s security”.

The court found Peyman Kia guilty of gathering some 90 classified documents through his jobs.

His brother was meanwhile found guilty of planning the crime and managing contacts with the GRU, passing on about 45 of the classified documents.

They were arrested in 2021, several years after Säpo first suspected a mole in its organisation and counter-intelligence began investigating Peyman Kia.

The pair have been held in custody since their arrest. Both denied the charges.

Peyman Kia was handed a life sentence for carrying out espionage “of the most serious category”, judge Måns Wigén said, adding that he had taken advantage of his employment as an intelligence official to aid Russia.

“Russia is the biggest threat to Sweden’s security. As far as foreign power go, acts of espionage to help Russia must therefore be considered as the most serious,” states the court judgment, seen by The Local.

Despite a trove of evidence including USB sticks, laptops, hard discs and mobile phones, the court acknowledged that there was much it had not been able to ascertain.

“After studying the evidence, it is clear that some pieces of the puzzle are missing and it has therefore not been possible to establish with certainty what has happened”, it wrote in a statement.

Possible money motive

The court speculated that the brothers may have been motivated by money.

Among other things, it found that Peyman Kia handled cash worth around 550,000 kronor (almost $50,000) in 2016-2017, more than 80 percent of it in US dollars, which it said was likely payment from Russia for the classified documents.

Much of the investigation and court hearing, and Thursday’s full court ruling, was considered classified information and therefore not made available to the public.

The trial coincides with another spectacular spying case believed to have benefited Russia involving a couple of Russian origin arrested last year at their home in a Stockholm suburb in a police helicopter raid at dawn.

Moscow allegedly installed the couple, named by the Bellingcat investigative website as Sergei Skvortsov and Elena Koulkova, as sleeper agents in the late 1990s.

According to Swedish media, the pair managed specialist import-export companies dealing in electronic components and industrial technology.

Skvortsov was placed in temporary custody in November for “illegal intelligence activities” while his companion was detained on suspicion of complicity before being released although she remains a person of interest in the investigation.

Swedish authorities say the case is not linked to that of the Kia brothers.

Article by AFP’s Pia Ohlin, with quote from court judgment added by The Local

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