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Swedish firms to be shamed over unpaid Ramsgate fines

A BRITISH MEP will this week ask European Transport Commissioner Neil Kinnock to back a campaign to shame the two Swedish companies responsible for 1994s fatal Ramsgate walkway collapse into paying their fines.

East Kent MEP Mark Watts will seek Kinnocks support through a question lodged in the European Parliament tomorrow.

Watts campaign targets walkway builder Fartygsentrepenader AB and designer Fartygs- konstrukioner AB. They were found guilty of gross negligence by an Old Bailey court last year.

FEAB and FKAB were fined 1M and ordered to pay 251,500 costs for their part in the collapse of the walkway, which killed six ferry passengers and injured seven (NCE 6 March 1997). Neither offered evidence in their defence and their parent company Mattsson Group has refused to pay the fines.

I find it morally repugnant that they are not willing to share responsibility for the Ramsgate collapse, Watts said. I want everyone in the European Parliament to know what they did.

Mattsson Group chairman Stefan Mattsson confirmed his refusal to pay the fines last week. He added that the matter was in the hands of his lawyers so he could not say exactly what would happen in the future.

Mattsson maintains that as the firm and its insurers had negotiated a compensation package for the victims, his company should not have to pay the fine.

Although Sweden is now part of the European Union, FEAB and FKAB cannot be chased for the fines as the collapse happened three months before Sweden joined. Had the Swedes been part of the EU in October 1994 they would have had to pay.

Watts is now preparing briefing packs for Swedish MEPs and intends to raise the subject with the Swedish government. The case has not been widely publicised in Sweden or across the rest of Europe and FEAB and FKAB have been able to trade freely since the verdict.

The Swedish MEPs could not believe what the firms had done when I first raised the subject with them, said Watts. They were even more shocked when they heard the firms had not paid the fines.

Port Ramsgate and Lloyds Register of Shipping, who were also implicated in the disaster, have paid fines and costs totalling nearly 1.2M.

Antony Oliver

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