By Gustav Hoejmark-Jensen, photos by pxhere.com and YouTube.com
In this month’s recap of Danish news and politics: The notorious social worker and alleged embezzler is caught with an additional suspect, the state attorney targets bank bosses, the head of the Danish State Pension Fund ‘ATP’ leaves due to connections to money laundering, and the Danish government reveals plans to keep denied asylum seekers on remote island.
Get your stakes and torches ready as Britta Nielsen, the social worker accused of stealing 111 million DKK from the government, returns to Denmark. After almost two months on the run from Interpol, the ‘master criminal’ of the Danish social service sector has finally been caught by South African authorities and returned to Denmark. Upon her extradition, she was almost immediately sentenced to custody jail while the case is investigated.
Britta Nielsen had a ‘measly’ 300.000 DKK in cash when she was arrested together with another, unnamed suspect. The identity of the other suspect is supposed to be secret as the Danish court proclaimed a name-restriction in the case. However, it seems that the unnamed person’s lawyer, Henrik Dupont Jørgensen, decided to make his life difficult by naming the suspect as “Jimmy” in a live interview with Danish national television, TV2.
And what do you know: Britta Nielsen has a son called Jimmy!
Let this be a lesson to anyone wanting to remain anonymous during their arrest – get a lawyer that doesn’t make things worse for you on national television while mimicking the face of ultimate regret.
You can see part of the live interview and the monumental legal slip up here:
Whether this was a rooky mistake or a calculated risk, one thing is for certain. Denmark will be watching the coming trials closely.
According to the daily newspaper Berlingske (15/11/2018), the paper that first broke the story of the Danske Bank scandal, the Danish state attorney, Morten Niels Jakobsen, is now also targeting the bank’s top bosses.
The State attorney said this in a statement where he also presented four criminal charges against the bank itself. Sadly, he did not name the top bosses in question.
The 11 top bosses have most likely already left their positions at Danske Bank, but hopefully this means that banks and corporations will no longer get away with just a fine, and that the top managers will no longer get away scot-free. I truly hope that State attorney Morten Niels Jakobsen is determined to see this through. And if he is, the punishment for the top bosses should be severe – at least it should match the crime while sending an important message: that wealthy people are not above the law.
But, of course, the system disappoints once more…
According to Danish money laundering act of 06/09/2017, paragraph 78 article 2, the highest maximum sentence is a mere six months’ imprisonment for even the gravest cases of money laundering. Yet, for stealing a car, the punishment can be a year and a half in prison, and for grave vandalism you could be facing six years in prison according to paragraph 293 in the Danish criminal code! In fact, street beggars face the same prison time as money launderers – six months behind bars, according to paragraph 197 article 1. Apparently, it doesn’t matter if you hide billions or ask for dimes… could the government spare some change please?
The only upside to this story is that if the State attorney can prove that the bank bosses bought something with money earned from the grand laundering scheme, what in legal terms is called “unjust enrichment”, then they could be facing six years in prison instead of six months. However, this seems almost impossible to prove and by then I imagine the bosses will be long gone on a sandy beach somewhere (other than South Africa), clinking glasses with the criminals that they may have worked with.
Christian Hyldahl was until recently CEO of ‘ATP Livslang Pension’ – the national Danish pension fund that manages all public pensions in relation to working in Denmark. If you are between the ages 16-67 and have ever worked in Denmark, you have had a pension fund with ATP. It is one of the largest pension investor funds in Europe, with more than 5.000.000 members according to DR.dk. Naturally, the CEO of such an enterprise should be someone that the public, and the government, can trust completely. After all, ATP is managing how your mandatory pension savings are being handled and invested so that your golden years can be care-free.
There is just a slight crease in Christian Hyldahl, the pension boss’ image – you see, from 2006 to 2008 he was Nordea’s CIO, or Chief Investment Officer, meaning that he was basically in charge of all investments handled by Nordea, and as you may remember: last week this column briefly presented how Nordea was also being investigated for fraudulent behaviour with dividends taxes.
This investigation has now grown, and it was recently discovered that Nordea tried to have almost 1 billion DKK refunded from Switzerland’s authorities for dividends tax that had allegedly been paid – the claim came from the department of which Christian Hyldahl was heading and in 2015 the supreme court of Switzerland deemed the financial move unlawful and demanded every penny paid back, resulting in a large fine for Nordea and a serious slap across the wrists of Christian Hyldahl.
It is exactly this muddy past that has now caught up with the CEO and has caused him to retire from his top-position on what he refers to as “ethical grounds”. Ethics or not, Christian Hyldahl walks out the door with nearly 7.000.000 DKK as a small consolation prize according to the financial news site Finans.dk.
Now, many financial analysts would say Christian Hyldahl’s leadership of ATP has been flawless, but if so, why the resignation on “ethical grounds”?
In 2017, ATP placed 11.7 billion DKK in 21 funds, all based on the Cayman Islands, according to Politiken.dk. A well-known tax haven. I do not know what the return of these investments was, but I am sure that the majority of the Danish people would like their hard-earned savings invested in places that are not on every money-launderer’s speed dial. Maybe the billions should instead have been placed in the island that the Danish government is building in Copenhagen. But of course, that would mean that ATP would have to pay the correct amount of tax – or maybe even the government would look away on this one? The banks surely seem to want to…
Welcome to a new populistic high in Danish democratic history. It sounds completely incredulous, but it is happening in Denmark nonetheless.
From as early as 2021, the Danish authorities will begin to ship refused asylum seekers off the isolated island of Lindholm, situated in the scarcely populated area of Stege Bugt. The island in question is owned by the government, and until 2019 it will be used by the Danish Technical University for viral research. The research has resulted in the island being subjected to highly contagious animal viruses such as rabies, African swine plague, foot and mouth disease and many more nasty sounding diseases. This means, that before any buildings or structures can be used to house the refused asylum seekers, the entire island must be thoroughly decontaminated. This includes spraying every building, garden shed and pathway with a detergent called Formalin – a substance so toxic that it then has to air away for six months before anyone can inhabit the island.
Can we just take a step back and wonder how such a proposal even makes it off the floor in the Danish parliament? Oh yeah… I forgot that the incredibly nationalistic and populist Dansk Folkeparti or “Danish Peoples’ Party” basically sets the path followed by our PM and his government nowadays…
And even though the viruses found on the island might not be dangerous to humans, there is still something fundamentally wrong with the idea of sending asylum seekers there.
According to DR.dk, the refugees supposed to inhabit the island are rejected asylum seekers that have been convicted of crimes in Denmark, or refugees in Denmark under so called “tolerated” stay. And if that wasn’t enough, the Danish Minister of Foreigners and Integration, Inger Støjberg, was quoted by the radio show “Call the government” on P1 as saying that the options to visit the mainland by ferry from the island should be as few and as expensive as possible while reducing the ferry service as much as she can while staying within human rights conventions.
To put it bluntly, it seems as if the Danish government is turning a deserted, contaminated island into a prison for those refugees which Denmark do not wish to keep. This is a big, ugly stain on the Danish tradition of compassion and tolerance.
And on that depressing note, we end November’s recap of Danish news, economy and politics. Stay tuned for more recaps over Christmas and in the new year.
Disclaimer: This column is a satirical news commentary and should be understood as such.