Sweden’s Inheritance Fund at risk: Audit urges overhaul to curb criminal abuse

Published 6 March 2024
- By Editorial Staff
The General Inheritance Fund receives money from estates without heirs.

The Swedish National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen) suggests that the Swedish Inheritance Fund (Allmänna arvsfonden) should be phased out and replaced by a “more robust system for dealing with the inheritance of people without heirs and wills”. Among other things, it points out that money from Swedish estates that should be distributed to “urgent projects” instead ends up in the pockets of criminals.

They point out that over the past decade the state fund has had considerably more income than could be distributed as grants for “urgent projects” – and that some applications have therefore not been weighed against each other; instead, it has been far too easy to receive large sums of money from the fund, even if they amount to millions.

– The combination of large grants and little competition carries the risk that projects are designed to get the grant rather than based on genuine ideas and needs, says Frida Widmalm, project manager for the review.

The review also shows that the money is likely to end up in the pockets of serious criminal networks and actors.

“Rogue or criminal actors”

“The investigation also shows that there is a high risk that the fund’s money will end up in the hands of rogue or criminal actors. On behalf of the Swedish National Audit Office, Säpo and the Swedish National Police Board have carried out searches in registers and intelligence systems. The searches show that economic, organised and democracy-threatening crime has been committed, is being investigated or is suspected among people in organisations that receive money to carry out Inheritance Fund projects”, the review reads.

“Individuals and organisations behind the grant-funded projects are also heavily over-represented in the Financial Intelligence Unit’s register of suspected money launderers. The National Audit Office has also found clear evidence of employment and salary irregularities and conflicts of interest in several Inheritance Fund projects”, it adds.

Auditor General Helena Lindberg believes that while the fund has financed “many good projects” – such as those that have benefited children and the disabled – “the conditions that justified the establishment of the Inheritance Fund a hundred years ago are no longer relevant” and that the government should instead introduce a new system “that is more robust against abuse and irregularities”.

Established in 2003, the Swedish National Audit Office (Riksrevisionen) reports to the Swedish Parliament and is responsible for auditing the different areas of government activity and where the money actually goes.

It also examines on an ongoing basis whether activities comply with established guidelines, rules and regulations, whether the government's efforts are effective and whether they achieve the goals set.

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