The monthly recap of Danish politics and society – October 2018

By Gustav Hoejmark-Jensen, photos by Madalina Paxaman and pxphotos.com

In October, it is all about the money: Denmark discovers it has given 12.7 billion DKK away, Danske Bank case becomes more intricate, a woman defrauds the government 111 million DKK and last but not least, the Danish government wants to build an island.

How the Danish government gave away 12.7 billion DKK

On the 18th of October, an incredible story broke across Europe: The CumEx-Files also known as the story of how a few tax attorneys, stockbrokers and some of the world’s largest banks defrauded European governments for more than 410 billion DKK (55 billion EUR).

State treasuries in Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Belgium, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Spain and Finland have all been victims of the unbelievably shrew tax-scam. And how does this translate into Denmark being defrauded almost 13 billion DKK you ask? To explain that, we have to turn our attention to a Dubai-based moneyman by the name of Sanjay Shah. As far as we know right now, he simply asked the skillful Danish Tax Authority for large tax returns on stock trades that hundreds of “fake” pension funds seemed to have conducted, and of course SKAT paid out incredible sums, depriving the Danish people of welfare and benefits that they had otherwise paid for.

The newspapers had a field day when the scandals started (photo by Madalina Paxaman)

Now, the tax authorities are very good at tracking down students that don’t fill out their tax returns correctly and they’re very quick to claim extra taxes from poor pensioners, but stopping a Dubai businessman from stealing 12.7 billion DKK – this is apparently beyond the 6.500 tax employees. It is simply unfathomable how a Danish government institution can act so carelessly. Or is it? Perhaps it’s possible that the sacking of 5000 tax employees had something to do with it?

In 2005, the Danish Tax Authority was reformed and SKAT was founded. A centralised department of the Danish Tax Authority that was supposed to be much more effective and a lot cheaper than the previous constellation. Within a few years, more than 40 per cent of the staff had been fired based on various consultancy reports from outside counsellors. That’s close to 5.000 employees fired over the last 13 years, approximately 32 workers fired each month. One can’t help but wonder whether the clever computer systems and automatisation was really worth it, when 12.7 billion DKK can just fly out the window with no one left to close it?

Money laundering is the new black

We stay on this topic a bit longer because the new trend in Denmark is apparently money laundering. In case you hadn’t noticed, Denmark’s largest moneylender, Danske Bank, is engulfed in what is becoming known as the largest case of money laundering ever in Denmark.

According to the ongoing investigation conducted by the Danish police division for special economic crime, a branch of Danske Bank based in Estonia handled more than 1.500 billion DKK and an unknown portion of that amount is said to have been laundered for suspicious clients. Let me rephrase that: Denmark’s largest bank, who by the way also handles all of the government’s transaction, has handled 1.5 trillion DKK of suspicious funds and have most likely knowingly handled dirty money for a large number of clients.

In total, 15.000 Danske Bank clients and more than nine million transactions are being investigated.

Money makes the world go round (photo by pxhere.com)

The sheer scale of this alone is ominously staggering, but what is perhaps even more worrying: last week, the Danish Government awarded Danske Bank the contract of handling all their transactions for the next four years. Yes, you read it right: a bank that is involved in a HUGE scandal and perhaps even criminal activity that is also being investigated by the US, is now also handling Denmark’s government transactions. Well, at least the government made sure that it can void the contract if Danske Bank is convicted of anything criminal, which is great idea, everything considered.

But it’s not over yet for Danske Bank. Because, luckily, someone in the Danish Financial Service Authority woke up and screened the proposed successor for the top position of CEO and declared him “not fit and proper” for the job, indicating that a more seasoned candidate is needed for the position. I’d like to congratulate the Danish Financial Service Authority, for questioning the fact that Danske Bank’s own Chief of Wealth Management, Jacob Aarup-Andersen, is not fit to lead the entire bank, now that a similar division has shown such tremendous results in Estonia.

It was only fitting that the previous CEO, Thomas Borgen, that stepped down due to the scandal, received a golden handshake of at least 13.5 million DKK, roughly a year’s salary. After all, he did do a fine job managing the bank and its ethical obligations…

… and black is always in fashion

Bear with me as we stay in the world of Danish banking for a minute longer, but it has just surfaced that Nordea, the second largest bank in Denmark, has been put under investigation by Swedish authorities for money laundering that could be connected to the Danske Bank-case. Little news surrounding this new addition to the Danish banking-scandal has emerged, but the Danish police division for special economic crime has acknowledged that it is overlooking material with Swedish authorities.

I guess the world of banking must be a tremendously confusing place to be, when no one seems to know right from wrong, dirty from clean, legal from illegal.

Stay tuned for more monthly recaps as the Danish banking-scandal unfolds.

On with the story and still about money: Government employee defrauds Danish government of 111 million DKK

By now, it must seem to you as if Danes are incredibly bad at keeping track of their money. Well, to be fair not all Danes are reckless with the finances. Apparently, only the ones who are working for banks. Or for the government.

A National Board of Social Services official is accused of embezzling the government for more than 111 million DKK. Anna Britta Troelsgaard Nielsen allegedly wired the money to her own account – 111 million DKK that was supposed to help the weakest citizens in Denmark through project funding and social aid for victims of abuse, trauma, severe illness and more. And this happened during a 16-year span. How is it even possible to just wire government funds to your own account? I can understand it slipping past screening- and surveillance measures once, BUT FOR 16 YEARS? If we do the basic math, 111 million over 16 years means that she would have had to transfer almost 600.000 DKK to her account every month. For a civil servant, that is way over an entire year’s salary. EVERY MONTH. I wonder why the bank never raised any alarms?

Guess what bank the woman used… Danske Bank! I wonder who approached who?

I am really looking forward to seeing the next polls for public trust in the government and its financial institutions. Rumours are that the current government it at its lowest approval rating in the last 13 months.

Oh, and did I mention that the Queen of Denmark awarded the 64-year-old woman with a medal for 40 years of trustworthy service as a civil servant? Can this case get any more derisive?

For the past month, an international manhunt has been underway for the 64-year-old. I find it extremely hard to imagine how one can escape Interpol for so long, but then again, I have never had 111 million DKK of public funds at my disposal.

But there is a silver lining in sight. Latest news is that the government worker accused of embezzlement has been arrested in South Africa where she was building luxury life for her and her family. Maybe, at least in this case, there is still some hope that we can recover some of the money taken from the weakest citizens in our society.

As it looks right now, November promises new developments in this case so stay tuned for the next month’s recap!

Denmark doesn’t spend enough money on bank- and embezzlement scandals, so the government wants to build an island

The government is scrambling to shake off some of the bad press that the last few weeks of scandals have generated, so two weeks ago the Danish Industry and Business Minister, Rasmus Jarlov, together with Prime Minister, Lars Løkke Rasmussen, presented the grand idea of creating a new island a stone’s throw from the mainland of inner Copenhagen.

“Lynetteholmen” would house 35.000 citizens, cost 20 billion DKK and be ready by 2070. According to the Rasmus Jarlov, it would be a historic event, not only for Copenhagen, but for the “entirety” of Denmark, whatever that means.

Copenhagen’s Chief Mayor, Frank Jensen, promised that the Danish taxpayer would not have to pay the monumental bill, but promised that the project would “rest in its own” – financially speaking. Which of course we have great faith in as Danish taxpayers, now that we have seen how the government manages to control its funds and what bank is managing the transactions…

The project will begin already in 2021 and from 2035 the first evidence of city development should be visible. 50 years from now, maybe a few Danish bankers can afford to move into the new island of Copenhagen.


Disclaimer: This column is a satirical news commentary and should be understood as such.

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