Suspected money laundering
Multi-billion amounts may have been laundered through Swedbank, according to an investigative reporting team at Swedish television’s Uppdrag Granskning. In total, at least SEK 40 billion could have been transferred between suspicious accounts in Swedbank and Danske Bank in the Baltic countries. Swedbank's CEO Birgitte Bonnesen previously stated her bank was not involved in the scandal, but it turns out 50 customers at Swedbank show clear signs of suspected money laundering and have transferred SEK 40 billion through Swedbank. Companies suspected of using the bank for money laundering are based abroad but have their accounts in branches in Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Swedbank's share dropped over 20 percent after the accusations were made public, and Ernst & Young has been appointed to do an independent evaluation.

No help for ISIS Swedes
Donald Trump has urged European countries to take back their respective IS members captured in Syria and Iraq. Foreign Minister Margot Wallström (S) has been very hesitant to bring home the Swedish citizens, and recently Stefan Löfven closed that door. “Sweden and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have since 2011 advised against travel to the region. Those who still do so should not count on any consular help from Sweden,” he told Swedish journalists on site for the EU-Arab League summit in Egypt in February.

Russian jet provocation
A Russian fighter jet flew just 70 feet (20 meters) from a Swedish signal reconnaissance aircraft on assignment above international waters just off the Baltic coast. Defense Minister Peter Hultqvist calls the incident on February 19 “unacceptable.”
“(The Russian SU 27) was approaching at high speed—supersonic speed—and met us in the air. It swung around, and after another passage, it positioned itself very close,” said Anders Persson, air chief of staff in Uppsala, to Swedish television. A reconnaissance aircraft cannot maneuver as fast as a fighter jet. The Armed Forces consider the incident serious. “Normally, you stay about 100 meters away from other aircrafts. That's normal,” Persson said. Earlier this year, the Swedish Armed Forces reported that three Russian military planes violated Swedish airspace when a Russian reconnaissance aircraft escorted by two fighter jets flew into Swedish territory south of Karlshamn in Blekinge.

More foreign students
The number of international students at universities and colleges in Stockholm keeps rising and is now at 9,750 students—an increase of 20 percent over the last three years. Stockholm University has the largest share (39 percent) with 3,796 international students. For the first time since tuition fees were introduced, China is the country with the largest group of students in Stockholm. The number of students from Germany, which had been among the largest inbound groups in Stockholm for many years, has also seen an increase but not at the same rate; it ranks third this year after China and Finland. France remains in fourth place with 482 students, while India comes in fifth place with 385 students, an increase of 16 percent over the previous year. The U.S. is also in the top 10 countries. For more info, see Study Destination: Stockholm. Report on International Student Mobility from Stockholm Academic Forum (Staf) at
www.staforum.se/en/more-international-students-in-stockholm

Most innovative companies
The magazine FastCompany has just listed the world's most innovative companies 2018. Spotify comes in at No. 9 overall, but if you look in the music category you also find another startup company, claiming eighth place, that's connected to Sweden—Kobalt Music. The company, founded in 2000, has built technology for collecting royalties in the new, often technically neglected digital music industry and "helps artists get and track royalties from YouTube, Instagram and streaming.” Kobalt currently has over 500 employees and works with 45,000 artists and songwriters as well as 600 music publishers.
In design, FastCompany lists furniture giant IKEA among the 10 most innovative for "solving furniture issues like a tech company.” Under marketing, you find another favorite, Göteborg based ad agency Forsman & Bodenfors, which works with the Volvo brand but also let us “rent the entire country of Sweden on Airbnb.” For more info, see www.fastcompany.com/most-innovative-companies/2018

Bringing back the local store
Remember Wheelys? The 5-year-old Swedish startup company started peddling—and pedaling—Sweden's favorite drink, and showing the world how to do it. We covered them as “Bike baristas made in Sweden” in 2016. The company continues to grow and has sold more than 800 café bikes in 80 countries. Production hasn’t been able to keep up with demand, something the founders attribute to the many young entrepreneurs who want to run their own business but lack the funds to cover the initial investments.
In 2017 Wheelys opened its first unmanned storefront called "Wheelys 247" in Shanghai, China. Now, the world’s first unmanned store on wheels has become a project under the brand Moby Mart. With a vision of resurrecting the local corner stores that were once in every village, Moby Mart is the store that instead comes to you. The business plan includes mass-producing unmanned, solar powered store solutions—a system based on membership through the Moby Mart app. The first of three prototypes, Moby Alpha, has been tested in Shanghai for over a year to collect data. It is run by a university and has 6,000 members, of which 5 percent use the store every day. Two copies of the new models, the smaller XI and the more adaptable PSI, have also been deployed in Shanghai in recent months. According to the company, the first models will be launched for purchase in the summer of 2019. For more info, see www.themobymart.com and www.wheelyscafe.com

Worker shortage in Stockholm
According to a report by the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce, the shortage of qualified labor is high and most vacancies are found in the IT industry. The fact that Stockholm has difficulty filling its labor shortage is partly due to the housing market but also because the skills of the labor force are not put to use effectively, according to Stefan Westerberg, senior economist at the Stockholm Chamber of Commerce. On one hand, Stockholm's labor market is red-hot with very high employment levels and unemployment falling rapidly. On the other, the acute shortage of qualified labor has become a real obstacle to businesses. This is the single biggest threat to productivity and growth, and is particularly challenging for Stockholm, given that 40 percent of all vacancies in Sweden are in the Stockholm region. If every vacancy in Stockholm could be filled, the report estimates, the gross regional product would increase by some SEK 18 billion. The report concludes that for Stockholm to grow, the labor crisis needs to be solved, the efficiency of the supply-demand matching has to increase and long-term unemployment must be tackled.