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Acclaimed Swedish crime writer gets jail time for tax evasion

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Remember the Paradise Papers?

They are part of the alliterative financial revelations by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). Per the ICIJ’s blurb, the Paradise Papers reveal in 2017 exposed the “secrets of the global elite” hidden in the files of “prestigious offshore law firms, a specialized trust company and 19 company registries in secrecy jurisdictions.”

That ICIJ financial scoop was preceded in 2013 by the Panama Papers, and followed in 2021 by the Pandora Papers.

Now, best-selling Swedish author Håkan Nesser, whose name appeared in the Paradise Papers, has been sentenced to jail for tax evasion.

Story led to formal tax investigation: Following the ICIJ report, Swedish authorities conducted their own investigation, which resulted in Nesser facing tax evasion charges.

Prosecutors alleged that the writer of contemporary thrillers withdrew more than $1 million over three years from companies he registered in Malta without reporting the transactions to Swedish tax authorities.

But as is the case in good crime novels, the genre for which Nesser is most well-known and for which he won Best Swedish Crime Novel Award three times, his tax case also had a couple of twists.

In the spring of 2023, Nesser faced a Swedish district court on the tax evasion charges. At that trial, Nesser said he set up the companies in Malta while living abroad because it was financially advantageous. He also maintained that he had been unaware of any wrongdoing.

“I’m lousy at finances. Others take care of it for me. Which, of course, does not mean that I am free from moral responsibility,” Nesser told Swedish media outlet SVT.

The court accepted the author's argument that the transfers had occurred through ignorance of tax rules, and acquitted Nesser.

Not so fast: The district court, however, said that the Malta money should have been declared. Nesser subsequently paid around €675,000 ($723,769 U.S.) in residual taxes.

But that didn't end the interest of Swedish tax officials. A Stockholm appeals court hearing on the funds' declaration oversight started late last month.

The appellate court found Nesser and his wife Elke, who faced the same charges, guilty of not declaring to Swedish tax authorities the transfer of nearly 13 million kronor ($1.23 million U.S.) from companies in Malta between 2013 and 2015. Both husband and wife were sentenced today to 18 months in jail.

"We're in shock and we feel like we've been run over by a tank," Nesser said following the court’s ruling.

3tax felon friday_smallerTax Felon Friday: As the Nesser case shows, tax officials worldwide are very serious about their taxpayers reporting financial transactions.

It’s unclear what other judicial appeals Nesser and his wife Elke might have. It’s also not clear as to when they will report to jail.

But what is clear is trying to hide money from the tax collector is not a good idea.

It also generally is difficult to convince tax officials that you were or are totally ignorant of your finances and related tax laws, even if that did help international race car driver Helio Catroneves avoid a U.S. tax evasion conviction.

If you want to catch up on all sorts of tax miscreants, the ol' blogs' special Tax Felon Friday page is a good place to start.

You also can find more tax crime posts, notably those that were published long before I gave them a special end-of-week feature, you can peruse, what else, the tax crimes category. You'll find this post at the top of that collection right now, so just scroll down for more.

And if you're looking for crime thriller to take to the beach, check out Nesser’s books. He's written 48, which have been translated from Swedish into more than 20 languages, and have sold some 20 million copies worldwide.

This list of Nesser's books also has an overview of some of the novelist’s popular characters. This list has synopses of each of Nesser's books.

You also might find these items of interest:



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