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Swedish financial crimes unit starts probe of Nobel-awarding Swedish Academy

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - The financial crimes unit of the Swedish police said on Friday it had started an investigation into the Swedish Academy, the institution that picks the winners of the Nobel Literature prize.

FILE PHOTO: A general view of the Swedish Academy's annual meeting at the Old Stock Exchange building in Stockholm, Sweden December 20, 2017. TT News Agency/Jonas Ekstromer via REUTERS/File Photo

The prestigious Academy has become embroiled in allegations of sexual misconduct by the husband of one of its members and the admission that the names of some prize-winners - the subject of intense speculation and on which many people place bets with betting firms - were leaked in advance.

Photographer Jean-Claude Arnault, the husband of poet and Academy member Katarina Frostenson, has denied the allegations of sexual misconduct, made by several women. He has also denied being the source of the leaked names.

“Chief Prosecutor Jan Tibbling of the Swedish Economic Crime Authority has started a preliminary investigation related to financial crime ... connected with the Swedish Academy,” the financial crime unit said in a statement.

Tibbling said he would not give further information on which crimes were being investigated nor the persons or people who were involved.

The Swedish Academy could not immediately be reached by telephone or email for comment. Arnault’s lawyer could also not immediately be reached for comment.

The workings of the normally secretive institution have come under intense scrutiny in recent weeks as a result of the allegations and a bitter and very public split among its members about how to handle them.

The head of the Academy and several of its members have stepped down. Sweden’s King Carl Gustaf - the patron of the institution founded by his forbear Gustav III in 1786 - has had to step in and promise to reform its arcane statutes.

Until now, Academy members have been appointed for life and resignations have been extremely rare. Even when members step down, they have not been able to formally leave.

The Nobel Foundation Board, which administers the money left by dynamite inventor Alfred Nobel to fund the awards that bear his name, has criticised the Swedish Academy for potentially tarnishing the reputation of the Nobel Prize.

Reporting by Simon Johnson and Johan Sennero; Editing by Gareth Jones