Sõnajalg bros wind park partly financed by major Swedish tax debtor

Aivar Õepa
, reporter
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Photo: Ants Liigus / Pärnu Postimees

Busy building a Sindi, Pärnu County wind park, Eurowind is owned by equal parts by turbine maker Eleon owned by Andres and Oleg Sõnajal, and a Panama-registered company E3WA. Representative and owner of the latter is Pär Anton Henrik Stigell (46) who according to Swedish tax board data owes the state 130 million kronor (€14.2m). Into the wind farm, Mr Stigell has invested half million euros. 

Eurowind OÜ board member Andres Sõnajalg said Mr Stigell was the one who contacted them: «He found us, having heard of the Estonian turbine technology, and visited us in Tallinn wishing to expand in wind energy developments.»

Mr Sõnajalg says they trusted the man who has developed wind farms elsewhere in Europe. As an example of that, Mr Stigell was involved in the building of the Lillgrund farm between Denmark and Sweden, largest on Baltic Sea at the time.

«That provided for strong basis to trust him as business partner,» said Mr Sõnajalg. «I may confirm that after we begun cooperation we personally have had no reason to reconsider our opinion regarding him. According to our experience, he is a man of his word who has always met his obligations in a timely manner.»

Loan via Panamanian firm

Through a Panama-registered company Eurowind East Europe West Asia (E3WA), Mr Stigell is partner in Eurowind OÜ since 2008.All in all, E3WA has loaned Eurowind €517,735 which used to be split into short and long term loans but is now reflected in annual report as long-term loan only.  

«Mr Stigell’s investment was a partner’s loan which was a prerequisite for him acquiring a holding. It is an investment obligation,» said Mr Sõnajalg. He added that the money has been spent on development of the wind farm including completion of connection, explorations and proceeding the plans. «As a rule, such investment loans are paid back to owners from company profits,» he noted.

The Sindi wind farm project, under development for a decade and for a while hindered by bickering between interest groups, has according to Mr Sõnajalg now come to the planning being established. In agreement with parish government, they have decided a new location in Nurme Marsh where building conditions are worse but the winds better.

The Sõnajalg brothers want to fit the farm with turbines produced by their own company Eleon. «Therefore, for a longer while we are also in negotiations to buy the foreign partner out of this project and to erect the wind farm with Estonian capital only,» said Andres Sõnajalg.

«Of his disputes with the Swedish state, what we know is that this is a very old dispute in which he was acquitted by the court of highest instance,» said Mr Sõnajalg regarding Mr Stigell.

Giant debt ever growing

That is not quite the case. According to Swedish tax board Skatteverket pres rep Christina Lindqvist Sjöström, Mr Stigell continually has tax arrears with Sweden. As at April 26th, his arrears stood at 132,312,791 Swedish kronor (€14,442,578) and it keep growing as interests keep piling. Only four years back, he owed 124 million kronor (€13.54m).

Mr Stigell’s debt before the state dates back to 1999 when he worked as stock broker and fund manager with Erik Penser (also in tax arrears before Swedish state). Pursuant to charges, he performed shares transactions with help of offshore-firms Bryson Investments Ltd. and Scandinavian Capital Investment Ltd. And hid 96 million kronor of income. On top of that, there were other affairs such as Mr Stigell earning 13 million kronor of undeclared profit while helping an acquaintance at Skandia.

In Sweden, those hiding taxes in especially large amounts may be sentenced for real imprisonment by court. With Mr Stigell, that’s what happened: in 2009, he was sentenced for 2.5 years. After appeals, he had to actually do 1.5 years of it.

So the Swedish state is yet to get its taxes and, according to Ms Lindqvist Sjöström, Mr Stigell’s arrears are currently at the Swedish executive agency Kronofogdemyndigheten. A citizen of Monaco, the man is probably keeping his money on his offshore-companies’ accounts.

An Internet search yielded several companies named Eurowind in England, Switzerland, Poland and elsewhere. Some are in operation, others not; meanwhile, many end up linked to firms registered in tax havens.

In 2012 tax debtors list by the newspaper Expressen, Mr Stigell ranked 12th; top debtor was Swedish «porn king» Berth Milton with 905 million kronor (€98m).

Comparing Estonian commercial register and the Swedish tax debtor top list, people other than Mr Stigell are found in both. Such as the timber businessman and horse racing giant Kurt Gösta Wijkström with Swedish tax arrears in 2011 amounting to 70 million kronor (€7.64m) who in December 2015 founded Export Holz Estonia in Pärnu. Unlike Mr Stigell, Mr Wijkström is not investing via Panama.

Neither do the Sõnajalg brothers, says Andres: «None of our companies has ever been linked to Panama. We deem this important to be underlined as we feel our competitors trying to label us with that.»