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Sweden appoints new ministers after tax scandal

Written by: Staff

STOCKHOLM, Oct 24 (Reuters) Sweden's prime minister today named cabinet ministers to replace two who were forced to quit in a scandal over unpaid taxes, but only after questioning the newcomers closely about their private lives.

Prime Minister Fredrik Reinfeldt appointed Sten Tolgfors as trade minister and Lena Adelsohn Liljeroth as culture minister after their predecessors had to step down just days after the new centre-right administration took power.

Both new ministers come from Reinfeldt's Moderate party and, unlike their short-lived predecessors, are members of parliament -- Tolgfors since 1994 and Adelsohn Liljeroth since 2002.

Reinfeldt, whose fledgling government has suffered a fraught honeymoon amid the scandals, told a news conference he had questioned the new ministers closely on their lives and conduct before settling on them.

''It went very well,'' he said.

Reinfeldt addressed media reports that Adelsohn Liljeroth, who is married to former Moderate Party leader Ulf Adelsohn, had in 1999 been caught carrying teargas, saying this was already widely known.

She now carries an attack alarm instead.

Tolgfors replaces former television journalist Maria Borelius, who quit on October 14 after only a week in office following her admission that she had not paid correct taxes when employing nannies and maids.

Newspaper reports also said a country house she owned had been bought via a Jersey-registered firm, allowing her to avoid property tax.

Culture Minister Cecilia Stego Chilo, former head of a leading think-tank, stepped down two days later after admitting she had not paid her television licence fee for 16 years.

The new coalition government ended 12 years of Social Democratic rule with an election win on September 17, partly on the conservative Moderates' shift towards the centre.

The scandals were followed by acknowledgements from Agriculture Minister Tobias Billstrom and Finance Minister Anders Borg that they too had dodged taxes when employing domestic help, but neither made any move to resign.

''I have always paid the TV licence and I have never paid a cleaner under the table,'' Tolgfors told the news conference.

Adelsohn Liljeroth said her husband was responsible for paying the family's television licence, and that she had always followed the law when employing nannies and maids.

''There is no better wisdom than the one after the event. We can only establish that I had of course not wished for things to happen the way they did with Maria and Cecilia. I asked them (to join the government) with the best of intentions and it was not possible to go through with them as ministers,'' Reinfeldt said.

''My view is now that Sten and Lena are excellent people to fulfil these tasks.'' REUTERS BDP BD1818

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