Cleaner working illegally in Sweden seized at PM’s home

Swedish Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson on Saturday night claimed to have been deceived by "a dodgy operator", after a cleaning lady was seized for working illegally during a police visit to her home.

Cleaner working illegally in Sweden seized at PM's home
Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson was announcing new Covid-19 restrictions at the time of the raid. Photo: Anders Wiklund/TT

“Even those of us who want to do the right thing can fall foul of dodgy operators,” Andersson told the Expressen newspaper on Saturday after it reported on the arrest, which took place just before Christmas after one of the cleaners accidentally set off a security alarm. 

Andersson said that the owner of the cleaning firm had assured her on multiple occasions that all of his employees were working legally under salaries and conditions set by a union collective bargaining agreement. 

“I have now cut all contacts with the cleaning firm. They have on several occasions answered in the affirmative when asked if they had signed up to a collective bargaining agreement with the unions,” she said. “I now expect the responsible agencies to get to the bottom of what happened.”

The opposition Moderate Party, who has named the emerging scandal Städgate or “cleaner-gate”, argued on Saturday that the situation raised serious questions about Andersson’s security arrangements. 

The party’s parliamentary group leader Tobias Billström told Expressen it was “serious and worrying that the country’s prime minister could end up in such a situation”. 

“The main question now is whether this a one-off event or whether there other similar examples,” he said.

There was a real risk, he added, that immigrants without valid documents working for senior politicians could be blackmailed by hostile foreign powers. 

In the UK, he wrote out on Twitter, an immigration minister found to have used an immigrant cleaner who was in the country illegally was forced to resign. 

On December 21st, police came to the house in Nacka, outside Stockholm, where Andersson has lived with her family since 2011, after one of the two cleaning ladies working at the house had accidentally set off an alarm.

They discovered that one of the two cleaners working that day, a 25-year-old woman from Nicaragua, not only lacked both a residency permit and a work permit, but that border police were searching for her so that she could be deported.

“We checked one person and it turned out that person had received a deportation order, after which we handed that person over to the Migration Agency,” Tommy Kalenius, who leads the police in Nacka, told Expressen.

Since taking over as Prime Minister at the start of December, Andersson has moved to Sweden’s official prime minister’s residence at Sagerska huset opposite the Royal Palace in Stockholm, and she had already moved out by the time of the police visit. 

The cleaning woman admitted to police that she had been working illegally after receiving a deportation order in the spring of 2020. The woman was also found guilty of stealing goods from the Åhléns department store in Stockholm in the autumn of 2020, but was not jailed as it was a first offence. 

The head of the cleaning company said that the woman had been supplied by one of the two other cleaning companies to whom he sometimes subcontracts work. He told Expressen that his company had never had a collective bargaining agreement with a union. 

In 2010, the company’s owner was found guilty of sending fake invoices and inventing front companies to lower his tax bill, for which he was fined 600,000 kronor and given a one-year prison sentence.

He managed to win his case at appeal, however, arguing that the suspect invoices were real and had been sent to a woman called “Svetlana”, whose surname he had forgotten.

Andersson has made clamping down on Sweden’s black economy one of the major focuses of her leadership, saying it is up to each individual to check that everyone they buy goods and services from is legitimate. 

In her comment to Expressen, she said that the episode only served to underline her point.

“Like many other Swedes, I am careful to make sure that everything is right and proper when I buy in services,” she wrote.

“But that even those of us who want to do the right thing can fall foul of dodgy operators shows that we need to carry on pushing through even more political measures to fight the various forms of cheating.” 

Member comments

  1. The police did not “raid” the PM’s house. According to multiple Swedish press reports, the house alarm was inadvertently set off when the cleaning lady turned up for her shift at the house. The police then answered the alarm call, found the lady there, and then discovered that she was working illegally. You can hardly say that the police “raided” the house as per The Local’s headline above.

    But the real story behind this story, and which is already starting to make noises on this grey and sleepy Sunday afternoon, is why people like cleaning staff and similar aren’t subject to security clearance by SÄPO before being allowed to work (apparently alone and unsupervised) in the PM’s home. Will be interesting to see what happens.

  2. What this is is a tragedy. The woman was working. This emphasis on “cheating” is all backwards. There should have been a path for her to work legally here instead of having do it in this precarious situation. It’s completely different when the cheating is being done by rich tax evaders.

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Sweden Elects: I’ve got election pork coming out my ears this week

The Local's editor Emma Löfgren rounds up this week's key talking points of the Swedish election campaign.

Sweden Elects: I've got election pork coming out my ears this week

There’s an old Swedish Word of the Day in The Local’s archives: valfläsk (literally “election pork”, or pork barrel politics).

This week, there’s been enough of it to feed a Swedish town large enough for both a Biltema and a Dressmann store and still have half the pig left!

You could say it started the week before last, when the Social Democrats’ Immigration Minister Anders Ygeman floated a test balloon loaded with a 50-percent cap on non-Nordic residents in troubled neighbourhoods (it went down among the other parties like it was made out of lead).

Then last week, the Liberals threw their hat in the ring by proposing mandatory language assessments for two-year-olds who don’t attend preschool, and then make preschool mandatory for the toddlers whose Swedish isn’t deemed good enough. This, they said, was meant to help integration in areas where bilingual children don’t speak Swedish at home.

“Studies show that early preschool benefits children whose mothers are low-educated and whose parents are born abroad,” their manifesto read.

Liberal leader Johan Pehrson’s statement that in the most extreme cases – where parents clearly refuse to let their children learn Swedish – led to a social media storm that conjured up images of crying toddlers being taken into care for failing to distinguish between en and ett when quizzed.

For any parents of multilingual children (who know better than most how language works in early childhood – I’m raising a multilingual baby myself, but I’ve only just started so if you have any tips, do let me know!), I should stress that the proposal is less extreme than how it was first presented.

This is typical for valfläsk, by the way. Take something that’s perfectly obvious and hard to argue against (of course mixed neighbourhoods and children being encouraged to learn languages are generally good things) but dial it up a notch, insert something immigration-related, promise to get tough on whatever it is you want to get tough on, and propose either something that already exists or would be near-impossible to implement.

Then the Stockholm branch of the conservative Moderates proposed that entire school classes in vulnerable areas should be screened for ADHD through optional rapid tests, in order to increase the comparably lower rate of medication among foreign-born children and prevent them from falling into a life of crime.

“Detached from reality,” said their Social Democrat rival and pointed out that the partly Moderate-run region was planning to cut the number of psychiatric care clinics for young people.

The Christian Democrats, never ones to be outdone, wanted to chemically castrate sex offenders, give police access to healthcare biobanks, and let police take DNA samples from people stopped in internal border checks.

But while many of the election pledges that get tossed around this close to the election (less than a month to go, now!) tend to range from the radical to the ridiculous and are unlikely to ever be implemented, they’re still worth paying attention to. They give us an indication of the direction the parties want to take, and could well reappear in a more watered-down format later on during the governmental cycle.

They may also become part of post-election negotiations, where even small parties hold key cards as the larger parties fight to cobble together viable government coalitions.

They also say something about Sweden and the direction of the political sphere as a whole, where the parties are currently racing to outdo each other on who can be toughest on immigration and law and order.

The Local’s reporter Becky Waterton has gone through all the parties’ election pledges to see how they specifically would affect foreign residents in Sweden – in case you’ve missed her article, click here to read it.

Also in the world of Swedish politics, a new poll by SVT and Novus has the Moderates and the Sweden Democrats neck and neck, Moderate leader Ulf Kristersson promised lower taxes in his summer speech and Prime Minister Magdalena Andersson tougher sentences on gang criminals in hers, and Sweden Democrat leader Jimmie Åkesson suggested changing the name of the Swedish Prison and Probation Service (Kriminalvården) to the Penal Office (Straffverket).

Sweden Elects is a new weekly column by Editor Emma Löfgren looking at the big talking points and issues in the Swedish election race. Members of The Local Sweden can sign up to receive the column plus several extra features as a newsletter in their email inbox each week. Just click on this “newsletters” option or visit the menu bar.