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Man at centre of Nobel sex scandal remanded pending verdict

Last Updated Sep 24, 2018 at 8:20 am EST

Frenchman Jean-Claude Arnault at the district court in Stockholm on Monday Sept. 24, 2018, for hearings in his trial for alleged rape and sexual assault. Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden and the husband of Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson, is on trial accused for two counts of rape of a woman in 2011. (Janerik Henriksson / TT via AP)

COPENHAGEN – The man at the centre of a sex abuse and financial crimes scandal that is tarnishing the academy awarding the Nobel Literature Prize was remanded in custody Monday, pending the verdict in his trial.

Jean-Claude Arnault, a major cultural figure in Sweden and the husband of Swedish Academy member Katarina Frostenson, was on trial for two counts of rape of a woman that allegedly took place in 2011. The accusations against him triggered a crisis within the prestigious academy, with seven members quitting and the body announcing that no prize will be awarded this year.

The Stockholm District Court ruled that Arnault should be remanded in custody after prosecutor Christina Voigt said “there is a risk he might leave the country.” Voigt also demanded that Arnault be sentenced to three years in prison.

Arnault’s lawyer Bjorn Hurtig told reporters he “reacted with dismay” and shock. He said Arnault was immediately taken away to the Kronoberg prison in Stockholm.

Both spoke Monday after closing remarks the three-day trial behind closed doors, which included testimonies by the alleged victim and seven witnesses. The verdict would be announced on Oct. 1.

Arnault has denied the rapes and other sex abuse allegations that have rocked the prestigious academy.

He was also suspected of violating century-old Nobel rules by leaking names of winners of the prestigious award — allegedly seven times, starting in 1996. It was not clear to whom the names were allegedly disclosed. No investigation has been opened into those allegations.

The allegations have shredded the body’s credibility, calling into question its judgment and kicking off a debate over how to face up to its flaws. It has exposed bitter divisions among the group’s 18 members — who are appointed for life — and seven members have either been forced to leave or quit since the scandal broke.

Frostenson quit in April at the same time as former permanent secretary Sara Danius.

Many in the Scandinavian nation, known for promoting gender equality, have expressed dismay over the scandal, which has given rise to accusations of patriarchal leanings among some members.

It began in when 18 women came forward in a Swedish newspaper with accusations against Arnault.

In April, the Swedish Academy said an internal investigation into sexual misconduct allegations found that “unacceptable behaviour in the form of unwanted intimacy” has taken place within the ranks of the prestigious institution.

The internal probe eventually led to a police investigation.