July 14, 2024

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Strawberries of blood in Sweden crime

Strawberries of blood in Sweden crime

Strawberries are a big part of summer culture in Sweden.

Particularly sensitive to environmental changes, the perennial plant “feeds” on the long bright days and cool summer nights of Scandinavia.

Sweet and delicious, the first ripe fruits begin to appear at the end of May in the southern part of the country and at the beginning of September in the far north.

The annual harvest ranges between 15-20 thousand tons per year.

Imports are frowned upon, although cheap Belgian strawberries are seen as an acceptable substitute.

They play an important role in summer celebrations, where they are usually served whole with sugar and milk.

Especially in the middle of the Swedish summer, the strawberry cake known as “jordgubbstarta” is a hit.

But it suddenly tasted unpleasant in Sweden this year.

Not literally, but figuratively. Strawberries are made of blood.

After repeated searches and raids of street vendors’ stalls, Swedish police discovered strange links with organized crime.

Quantities of strawberries were also seized, which turned out to be mainly imported from Belgium.

The problem isn’t that it’s sold as Swedish.

Black, the proceeds from the illegal sale of strawberries at many street stalls ultimately end up funding organized crime.

The authorities estimate that the sums collected in this way amount to “billions of kroner each year”.

It was found that minor children, even under the age of ten, as well as immigrants without a residence permit, work illegally as street vendors.

Strawberry fields (Photo: Unspash/Tim Mossholder)

Strawberries as a “weapon”

In June alone, teams of police and environmental inspectors carried out coordinated raids on 15 strawberry street vendors in different cities in Sweden.

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In Helsingborg, for example – an important port in the south – police recorded a series of violations, resulting in the arrest of 14 people and the seizure of 180 kilograms of strawberries.

The raids are part of a broader strategy to combat the black economy and organised crime gangs that have infiltrated Sweden’s berry, fruit and vegetable markets.

Ismail Abdo is alleged to be suspect number 1. It is no coincidence that she is known by the nickname Jordgubben: “Strawberry”.

He is a notorious criminal gang leader, and is seen as a central figure in the brutal gang war raging in Sweden.

It is estimated that strawberry stands are used to wash tens of millions of crowns annually.

It is a “golden” market, worth around SEK 900 million per year.

This is without taking into account sales at kiosks and seasonal stalls.

The raids found that the illegal sales were being made using the Swedish cashless payment app Swish, with no accounts linked to any business other than private mobile phone numbers, which are difficult to trace.

With the summer strawberry season at its lowest point and amid raids, Swedish police and authorities are urging traders and consumers to check the legitimacy of their transactions.

They warned that if they did not do so, they risked contributing to the bloody and long-running gang war in Sweden.

Once a peaceful country, it now has the third highest number of murders by armed attacks in Europe.

In 2022, the number of people killed in armed attacks exceeded sixty.

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More than 50 people were killed in shooting incidents during the first 11 months of 2023, while more than 140 explosions occurred.

Strawberry plant (Photo: Unspash/Louisa Bihi)

“hydra”

Authorities consider the lucrative strawberry trade a front for broader criminal activities, including human trafficking, arms and drug smuggling.

To avoid arrest in Sweden, Ismail Abdo recently moved to Türkiye.

He was recently arrested there in Adana, but was released on bail, despite suspicions of involvement in serious crimes, and the open conflict between his group and the group of Rafah Majid, known as the “Kurdish Fox”.

He is on the Interpol red list for controlling the drug market in Sweden.

The dispute between the two gangs has contributed to an escalation of violence in the Scandinavian country since late 2022.

According to the Stockholm authorities, this is being done at the instigation of Iran.

They claim that Tehran, through criminal networks, organizes attacks against Israeli and Iranian dissidents on Swedish soil.

“No one should be able to continue to control and participate in crime in Sweden from abroad with impunity,” said Justice Minister Gunnar Strommer.

“The government is doing everything it can to help judicial cooperation between countries.”