Despite Victor Muller’s assurances that he is innocent, that he has not been accused of any crime, and that Sweden’s Economic Crime Authority most likely only wants to invite him for a friendly chat, Sweden’s Göteborgs-Posten thinks it knows who is the target of the investigation: Victor Muller, and Saab’s board. In the end, Victor Muller was alone on board. Says the paper:
“From what Göteborgs-Posten learned, there is a clear link between the prosecutor’s recent suspicions about crimes by SAAB Automobiles former board and how Victor Muller was paid for his work from February 2010 to the bankruptcy in December 2012.”
“When Victor Muller, a major owner of Spyker Cars which bought SAAB Automobile in February 2010, joined SAAB’s leadership as chairman of the board, there was no written contract about how and for what he would get paid. Even so, invoices started to arrive from Muller’s companies in Latin America Tug Holding on the Dutch Antilles.”
An international tax consultant tells TTAC that disputes about consultancy agreements vs. salaries are common: “If there is a dispute, they ask first for a contract. If there is none, bad news. If there is a contract, then they look for emails in which the contract was negotiated. If the contract just appeared out of thin air, bad news. Then they look where the money went.”
According to Göteborgs-Posten, the money did not go to the Tug company, “but to Muller’s private bank account, as the investigations of the tax authorities show.” Apparently in a letter to Muller, those tax authorities worte:
“The evidence supports the conclusion that the purpose was that SAAB should give you compensation and that you would avoid paying taxes for this.”
Until SAAB’s bankruptcy in December 2011, about $1.2 million were paid in consulting fees to Victor Muller, the paper says.
“It was only in September 2011 that Victor Muller, when he was the only person in the leadership and the crisis in SAAB was escalating, that the consulting fees were regulated in a written agreement. The payments where thereby secured.
The Tax Authorities sees this entire arrangement with consulting fees instead of salary for the job as chairman of the board as a ploy to make Victor Muller avoid paying taxes in Sweden for his work in SAAB Automobile. In September 2012 the Tax Authorities therefore decided to demand Victor Muller pay approx. 2 million SEK ($300,000) in tax.”
The paper concludes:
“The responsibility for errors in the conduct of SAABs accounting and reporting, and that SAAB paid a consulting fee instead of salary and that a substantial tax shortfall has happened, rests with the board of SAAB.“
In the end, Victor Muller sat alone on the board. On June 23, 2011, Saab’s General Counsel Kristina Gers stepped down from the board, a week after two union representatives defected.
In the meantime, Muller said through his favorite mouthpiece Saabsunited , that “the contract was approved by the National Debt Office in 2010.” According to the information given to Göteborgs-Posten, no contract existed in 2010. The Debt Office told the paper that all it had to approve whether the “compensation was reasonable,” and that how taxes are paid would be up to Saab and Muller.
(Hat tip to a friend in Sweden for a translation better than Google Translate.)