Lazard chair in Sweden charged with aggravated bribery
Lazard chair in Sweden charged with aggravated bribery

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The chairman of Sweden’s Lazard has been charged with aggravated bribery in connection with the takeover of a Swiss company by engineering group Atlas Copco.

Swedish prosecutors allege that Gustaf Slettengren bribed a prominent board member of OC Oerlikon Corporation 138,000 euros in 2016 for information as part of the Swiss group’s 486 million euro sale of its vacuum business to Atlas last year.

Prosecutors have asked the district court to fine Lazard itself 1.5 million Swedish kronor ($140,000) over the matter because of Slettengren’s position with the company.

“Considering the very substantial value of the bribe, the crime was very serious,” prosecutor Leif Goltz wrote in a court filing. “Gustaf Slettengren, as the company’s managing director, Managers, who have the power to represent the company and make decisions on behalf of the company, have leadership.”

Görts added that the payment to board member Hans Ziegler was “improper” as it constituted “compensation for board information” he provided to Lazard Group, which would be used “for Lazard’s assistance in the acquisition of businesses between Atlas” and Oerlikon.

Slaterglen did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He has denied the allegations, court documents say.

“Lazard has cooperated fully with the investigation and we are awaiting the outcome of the individual’s judicial proceedings,” the bank said.

Atlas Copco said it would not comment on ongoing cases in which it was not involved.

Ziegler, a high-profile director of several Swiss and German industrial companies, was convicted in 2021 in what is seen as Switzerland’s largest ever insider trading case. He was sentenced to 22 months probation, a small fine and forfeited CHF 2 million ($2.3 million) in profits.

Swiss prosecutors accused him of using his inside information about 11 companies to profit through personal dealings and passing information to Lazard. A former Lazard banker was also convicted in the case, but neither was charged with any bribery.

Swedish prosecutors say the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed their investigations, meaning any penalties will be lower than if charges were brought in a timely manner.

According to court documents, Lazard claimed that the investigative report involved “extensive corporate confidentiality” and requested confidentiality. Goetz disputes that claim and is pushing for the case to go to trial.

Atlas Copco owns Sweden’s most valuable listed company and is using the Oerlikon acquisition to boost its vacuum business, one of its biggest growth drivers in recent years.

Additional reporting by Stephen Morris in London


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