Tax official tried to warn friend of Panama Papers investigation

1:37 min

Two officials at the Swedish Tax Agency, who were civil servants in the Reinfeldt government, tried to warn a former colleague that his assets were being investigated by journalists as part of the Panama Papers investigation.

On Wednesday evening the flagship SVT investigative journalism programme Uppdrag granskning promises to reveal more from its work on the Panama papers, millions of leaked documents from a law firm in Panama that reveal how the world's rich and powerful used tax havens to hide their wealth. And in advance of that showing it is releasing some details, published in newspaper Dagens Nyheter.

The deputy general director of the tax agency, Helena Dyrssen, called a former colleague, Frank Belfrage, to tell him that Uppdrag granskning had requested documents on where he places his money. These documents are available under Swedish open government laws.

Dyrssen never reached Belfrage, who was a longtime diplomat and served as State Secretary for Foreign Affairs at the Foreign Ministry between 2006 and 2014.

The general director of the tax agency himself, Ingemar Hansson, knew that Helena Dyrssen was making the call, and says at the time he saw nothing wrong.

The tax agency’s own secrecy rules state that only the case officer should make such a contact.

Helen Dyrssen says to Uppdrag granskning that if she had not known Frank Belfrage she would not have contacted him.

This has been strongly criticised by Finance Minister Magdalena Andersson, who says to news agency TT that it was "very inappropriate" to call Frank Belfrage. "The consequences can be damage to the reputation of the tax agency, and that isn't good. The tax agency is based on people taking part and paying tax", she says to TT, adding she wants to see Skatteverket to take steps to defend its reputation.

The Panama Papers also show that Swedish bank Nordea lent billions to an oligarch from Kazakhstan, to build the “Metropolis” office centre in Moscow. The documents show the loans passing through three companies in tax havens, so-called shell companies which exist in name only.