Sweden’s Foreign Minister Margot Wallström, currently embroiled in a bitter dispute with Israel over her criticisms of its policies on the Palestinians, was named Friday in a domestic scandal involving unfair procedures for the renting out of apartments in Stockholm.
An anti-corruption group urged that she be probed for possible bribe-taking. Wallström denied any wrongdoing.
In an investigation of Sweden’s biggest trade union giant Kommunal, which owns several properties in Stockholm, the Aftonbladet daily reported that Wallström and other “high-profile figures” on the political left were given preferential treatment in the rental of apartments. Apartments are in short supply in the Swedish capital, and the favoritism shown to Wallström and others allowed them to bypass a waiting period that typically lasts eight years, the newspaper said.
Wallström acknowledged that she has been renting an apartment from Kommunal since April. “I got confirmation from the highest level that they followed all the rules and procedures in assigning apartments, and that I was not going to jump ahead of anyone on the waiting list,” she was quoted as telling Sweden’s TT news agency. “They lied to me about this… I am angry and disappointed.”
Her spokesman said she had been offered the use of the property “in an informal discussion with the head of Kommunal,” according to Sweden’s The Local website. “She later said she had terminated her lease and would be moving out,” it reported.
The Swedish Anti-corruption Institute said investigators should examine whether Wallström’s accepting an apartment from the union constituted bribery, The Local reported.
The 61-year-old Social Democrat has repeatedly enraged Israel, starting with Sweden’s recognition of a Palestinian state shortly after she became foreign minister in October 2014.
In the wake of last November’s terror attacks in Paris, she identified the Israeli-Palestinian conflict as one of the factors explaining why “there are so many people who have become radicalized” — comments Israel called “appallingly impudent.”
And in December, she called on Israel to halt what she called “extrajudicial executions” in response to attacks by knife-wielding Palestinians, following up with a demand this month for “thorough” investigations into the killing of Palestinians by the Israeli army.
Israel has made clear that she would not be a welcome visitor in the country, and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday called her critiques outrageous, immoral, wrong and stupid.
Said Netanyahu: “I mean, people are defending themselves against assailants, wielding knives, who are about to stab them to death. And they shoot the people. And that’s extrajudicial killings? So why is San Bernardino not extrajudicial killings? And the other day in Paris — a knife-wielding terrorist was shot to death. Is that extrajudicial killing? Does the Swedish foreign minister suggest that there be examinations of what happened there, in Paris. Or in the United States? This is definitely wrong. And it singles out Israel in an absurd way… I don’t want to call it by other names. I’ll just say this is an absurdity, and it’s outrageous.”
AFP contributed to this report.