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The chairman of Handelsbanken, often considered one of Europe’s most respected banks, has become the latest senior Swedish business figure caught up in the scandal over elk hunting hospitality.
Pär Boman, chairman of Handelsbanken, one of Sweden’s top four banks, says he has been questioned by the prosecutor looking into possible bribes connnected with these hunting trips.
“I have today been questioned by prosecutor Alf Johansson regarding suspicions of receiving bribes. These suspicions are, in my opinion, groundless.” he said in a statement released by Handelsbanken late on Tuesday.
In January, both Fredrik Lundberg,chairman of investment company Industrivarden and ex-finance minister Anders Borg were questioned by anti-corruption prosecutors on suspicion of bribery.
Mr Lundberg is considered one of Sweden’s most powerful business figures. Industrivarden has controlling stakes in a number of Swedish companies, including Handelsbanken, Ericsson and Volvo Group.
Mr Boman said during his time as chief executive at the bank between 2006 and 2015 he had been invited by Mr Lundberg to attend Holmen hunting trips. Holmen is the Swedish forestry group that Mr Lundberg also chairs.
“Since these hunting trips were organised by an external company, I consulted with the then chairman of the bank’s board, Hans Larsson, and others before I accepted. Consequently, my participation was completely open and with the express consent of my principal,” Mr Boman said.
He added that since becoming chairman himself, he had participated in two hunting outings.
He said on both occasions, he arranged to pay.
Mr Boman said: “According to the legal experts that I have consulted, my participation has thus been entirely in order, and in accordance with the law. Now, however the prosecutor is making a different assessment, initially. My intention is to continue co-operating fully with the prosecutor and his team, in order to clarify this matter.”
Mr Boman’s statement means the two new strong men of the Industrivarden empire – brought in after Sweden’s so-called corporate jet scandal – are now both embroiled in this elk hunting saga.
Many senior Swedish business figures not caught up in the scandal privately suggest it is a witch hunt. “Hunting has been part of the way Swedish business is done for decades. This investigation just seems like jealousy,” said one senior director.