SvD.se reports that would-be Saab rescuer Vladimir Antonov is considering legal action against the European Investment Bank and the Swedish Government, for keeping him out of an ownership stake at the failing Swedish automaker. Says Antonov
I have therefore decided to investigate the possibility of taking legal action, including but not limited to claims for damages, which may be of interest to various parties, including myself, the EIB, some officials at the EIB, the Swedish government and some government officials personally. By denying SWAN (Swedish Automobile) and Saab Automobile access to the funding that I offer, what these companies want and still desperately want, both the Bank and the Swedish government acted against all involved parties concerned, particularly against Saab and SWAN’s employees , suppliers, traders, lenders and shareholders
Antonov is reportedly investigating whether he can sue individual ministers of the Swedish government, while the ministers in question angrily deny that they are working against the interests of the Swedish auto industry. Meanwhile, far from calling for the overthrow of the government, the Swedish press is investigating Saab’s outlays for “management services” in recent years, and has found that CEO Victor Muller may be siphoning cash off to the tax haven of Curacao.
Last year, Saab payed its owners at Spyker some 40m Kroner (about $6.3m) for “management services.” Of that portion, Spyker paid its CEO Victor Muller some $1.5m in compensation and bonuses… but that wasn’t the entirety of Muller’s payday. According to di.se, another $630k was paid to a mysterious company known as Latin American TUG Holding (recently changed to Lat Management NV), a firm that is registered in the tax haven of Curacao. Nearly $300k of that money was reportedly earmarked to Muller.
On 26 January this year the company changed its name to Lat Management NV The company is engaged in freight and shipping operations, and also provides “management services,” especially in the automotive industry, according to documents from the Curacao Chamber of Commerce.
Victor Muller’s name is not mentioned in the documents. Instead there are two Dutchmen as contacts and CEO – Everardus Van Rutten and Johan Van Vlit. They represent Lat Management’s local representative company – Coral Administration and Management. The company is in turn a freight company, which also has a business to register offshore companies in Curacao.
When di.se called Coral Administration and Management, we spoke to chief executive Johan van Vlit.
Who owns Lat Management N.V?
“I can not tell. It’s classified information,” he says, referring all questions about the company to Victor Muller.
But he confirms that the company Latin American Tug Holding changed its name to Lat Management NV In January this year.
One of the company’s activities is to provide “management services” in the automotive industry, are Victor Muller’s services provided?
“Well, it is he who does the job. But it’s better if you ask any questions to him, “said Johan Van Vlit.
When Saab is asked about the arrangement, Chief Information Officer Eric Geers is no more helpful.
Johan Van Vlit, representing Latin American Tug Holding NV, now Lat Management NV confirms to di.se that Victor Muller performs the company’s “management services”. What is your comment on that?
“I can not confirm it, but would need to examine it in this case. But if he confirms it as you may well take it. ”
Saab liabilities of Enforcement pile up and wages have failed again. Do you think that the payment of four million to Latin American Tug Holding last year was justified?
“I don’t know all the numbers. But we are in compliance with all accounting rules. There is nothing strange about that. ”
When di.se contacted Saab for further clarification, it reported that the $6.3m payment from Saab to Spyker was
payment for services performed by Spyker’s management of Saab’s behalf, including costs for the board. The payment also applies to the cost of various advisors and consultants paid by Spyker in connection with the acquisition.
But that would entail a few large staffs of consultants is not likely, according to the Dutch journalist Robert van den Oever, who has written a book about the Spyker and who have been following Victor Muller’s business.
“We know from earlier that Muller does not usually have a large group of advisers around him. He did not during the acquisition of Saab, nor in recent months as he has been working to find funding. It’s hard to believe that the costs of external consultants have been high, “he says, noting that Muller himself has said repeatedly that he works with a small group of people.
A Dutch shareholder’s rights group has already criticized Muller’s bonus arguing
The bonus is disproportionate. Given the large financial losses and poor sales, we wonder what objectives have been achieved that may justify a bonus
The fact that Saab can’t pay suppliers or workers while Muller is shuffling money off to Caribbean tax shelters (especially one so infamous that the Swedish government just concluded an agreement with it to crack down on tax evasion) is just one more piece of bad PR for a firm that’s pretty clearly circling the drain. And it certainly won’t help Antonov’s claim that he and Muller are as pure as the driven snow and the victims of discrimination. Muller has certainly done better out of the deal than anyone running a company that sold fewer than 30,000 cars last year has any right to expect… and he’s definitely done better than the employees he claims to be “saving.” Maybe it’s time for Muller and Antonov to just call it a day and pack it in.