Early in September the former CEO of SAAB, Jan Ake Jonsson was finally charged with giving false testimony during the bankruptcy court case for the collapsed car maker. SAAB had been abandoned by General Motors and Spyker had stepped in with firstly Russian/Ukrainian and then Chinese money to save the company. GM didn’t like either parties and the deal failed taking firstly SAAB and then Spyker into bankruptcy and administration.
Spyker is coming out of administration with a new tie up, described in a recent post about electric car rivals for Tesla, however SAAB is mired in the courts.
Back in 2013 several directors of SAAB were arrested and questioned over suspicions of “grave attempts to complicate tax controls” during 2010 and 2011 according to the Swedish Economic Crime Authority. The suspicions were raised because of overly complicated tax controls with some contracts. SAAB was late paying taxes and salaries during these years which seems to have triggered the investigation.
The CEO was questioned along with the CFO, Karl-Gustav Lindstroem and the General Counsel, Kristina Geers to ascertain what was going on during that period. Spyker had bought the company and was trying to get it functioning again and it appears that there was some cash coming from Antonov, the aircraft builder – SAAB Automobile was formed from an aircraft company itself so this could have been a good relationship. General Motors still held preferential shares in the entity and blocked several attempts to re-fund the company.
Jonsson signed an import and wholesaler agreement in the Ukraine a few weeks before he retired from the company and it is this agreement that is at the centre of the recent charges. Naturally he is defending his decisions and the signed contracts, believing them to be above the law, however it is clear that the Swedish courts feel otherwise. My understanding of the issue is that the courts feel that the agreement was an attempt to reduce the tax liabilities in Sweden by pushing the profits offshore.
It seems the CFO and GC have also been charged, so we will now have to wait for the court appearances to see what transpires. These kinds of cases are quite hard to assess as the financial structures of contracts can be difficult to unpick or they are open to different interpretations.