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Nobel committee in crisis over sex scandal

It has led to the departure of six of members of the Academy and tarnished the prize’s reputation

Gulf News

COPENHAGEN, Denmark - An investigation into sexual misconduct allegations at the Swedish body that hands out the coveted Nobel Prize in Literature found Friday that “unacceptable behaviour in the form of unwanted intimacy” has taken place within the ranks of the prestigious institution.

The secretive 18-member board has in recent weeks been embroiled in a sex-abuse scandal that investigators concluded was “not generally known.” It has led to the departure of six of members of the Academy and tarnished the prize’s reputation.

Sweden’s prime minister, king and the Nobel board have all expressed their concerns over a scandal that has sparked outrage in the Scandinavian nation, known for promoting gender equality. On Thursday, thousands gathered outside the Swedish Academy to demand that all of its remaining members resign.

The academy commissioned lawyers to investigate sexual misconduct claims from 18 women against Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden who is married to poet and academy member, Katarina Frostenson.

Frostenson stepped down last week at the same time as another woman - the academy’s permanent secretary Sara Danius.

The case has exposed bitter divisions within the academy, whose members are appointed for life, and given rise to accusations of patriarchal leanings among some members.

The protest has grown out of what began as Sweden’s own #MeToo moment in November when the country saw thousands of sexual misconduct allegations surfacing from all walks of life. It hit the academy when 18 women came forward in a Swedish newspaper with accusations against Arnault.

He was banned in December by the academy from attending a Nobel banquet after Dagens Nyheter, one of Sweden’s largest, published the allegations.

He has denied the alleged assaults, which reportedly occurred between 1996 and 2017. Swedish prosecutors said last month that an investigation into reported rape and sexual abuse by Arnault from 2013 to 2015 had been dropped, but a probe into other criminal acts would continue.

On the sidelines of the probe, the academy said Friday it found a letter it had received in December 1996, in which the sender drew attention to suspected sexual assault at Arnault’s cultural center that had received funding from the academy.

It added it “deeply regrets that the letter was put aside, which meant that no action was taken to investigate,” and distanced itself from sexual harassment and sexual violence “wherever it occurs.”

Arnault who was not named in the academy’s press statement, has also been suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award - including 2016 recipient Bob Dylan. He has allegedly leaked winners’ names seven times, starting in 1996. It was not clear who the names were disclosed to.

The investigators noted “violations of the academy’s secrecy rules have been noted regarding the work of the Nobel Prize in Literature.” It didn’t elaborate.

The academy said that following what it called “a serious crisis,” it had decided to hand over the report to relevant judicial authorities. The Swedish Economic Crime Authority tweeted it had received the academy report but declined to comment, citing the ongoing investigation.

Last year after the first allegations surfaced, annual funding of 126,000 kronor ($12,000) to Arnault’s center was immediately stopped. The Academy then stressed it had not been paid to Arnault personally.

The probe found no evidence that Arnault “had any direct or indirect influence on” the handing out of funds since it first got it in 2010 but “the decision-making process” was in violation” with its rules because an unnamed person had a share in Arnault’s institution.

“Better procedures could have prevented this,” the statement said.
— AP

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