The monthly recap of Danish politics and society – February 2019


By Gustav Højmark-Jensen, photos by

In this February recap of Danish politics and news: Danske Bank feels the pressure from the bad press, no one is apparently responsible for the 120 million DKK Social Service fraud and the hype starts regarding Tour de France coming to Denmark.

Danske Bank loses 29.000 customers and sees its annual revenue drop 28%

(I know… These banks again… but we cannot let these guys off the hook!)

One of the biggest scandals in Denmark last year was the Danske Bank money laundering case. Denmark’s largest money-lender was said to have handled more than 1500 billion suspicious transactions through their Estonian branch and supposedly they have laundered billions for all sorts of clients, domestic and international.

The piggy banks of Denmark, Danske Bank and Nordea, have both become implicated in large money laundering scandals (photo: Pixabay)

On the 1st of February, the aftermath of the scandal was made clear: 29.000 customers have fled from Danske Bank and their revenue was slashed by 28%, from 20,9 billion DKK in 2017 to 15 billion DKK in 2018.

The bank said in a press release that their loss of revenue was mainly due to a “tricky financial market”. However, I am sure that some of the losses are due to the fact that people and business have lost faith in the Danish money-lender. And to be frank, the decrease in revenue serves them right.

Danske Bank has tried hard to regain the trust of their private customers and wrote this in a statement to DR: “We are determined to regain our client’s trust, but we acknowledge that it will take time.” – what did they expect?

Although Danske Bank is cooperating with the authorities, it will do little to restore the public trust because, as we have previously covered in these recaps, the Danish Financial Supervisory Authority is not a force to be reckoned with, far from it. Which is perhaps also why it now only now surfaces that Denmark’s second largest money-lender, Nordea, for years has been involved in the same kind of activities.

In response to allegations of money-laundering through a Copenhagen-based branch over a 10-year period, Nordea’s head of risk management said to DR: “We are very, very sorry that it happened, if it did happen. We have closed the branch.”

Being a customer in Nordea, I personally could not care less about how sorry they are. Unless some heads are going to roll and every dime of profit they have made from these transactions are donated to charity, I will take my scrawny student savings someplace else.

“Impossible to place responsibility” on the supervisors of social service fraudster Britta Nielsen

Remember when we covered the financial fraud case of Britta Nielsen? The Social Service employee who transferred 121 million DKK to her own accounts? Money that was meant for the weakest in our society.

No one in the administration of the social services can be blamed for not catching the fraudster, Britta Nielsen (photo: Pixabay)

Well, the government’s civil lawyer just reported that it would be impossible to place any kind of responsibility on her supervisors, the administrative department or on the ministry itself. Apparently, the extreme lack of control and the other 13 points of “weakness” that an investigation led by PricewaterhouseCoopers pointed out as central to the scam were no one’s fault?

Child and Social Minister, Mai Mercado from the Conservatives (K) said in a press conference that it was how the law worked, but that she was not satisfied and that changes were necessary in the department “when money could be siphoned out for years” – What a profound realisation from the minister…!

What is even more tragic about this scandal is the fact that Britta Nielsen, the woman who defrauded the ministry, was the main point of contact for the Public Accounts Committee, the control organisation overseeing the government funds, and thus also overseeing the transfer processes that Britta Nielsen used to siphon money out.

The Public Accounts Committee had for 13 years criticised the department that Britta Nielsen worked in for having insufficient control, but she was supposedly able to cover up her scam for decades. The Committee even criticised the exact mechanism that was exploited to steal money out the public coffers.

I am baffled by the fact that no one in the ministry listened to the Committee. When the Public Accounts Committee – an office consisting of an army of accountants and financial analysts say that more regulation and control is needed, it goes without saying that it should be taken seriously.

The very same Public Accounts Committee has just announced a historically grave critique of the government’s budget from 2017, citing severe problems in the Danish Tax Authority and the Finance Ministry. They are approving the budget, but are expressing “dire concerns”.

This is the first time in 20 years that the Public Accounts Committee expresses concern of this magnitude for a state budget according to DR.

Tour de France is coming to Denmark (feeling the hype yet?)

The world’s biggest event in cycle sport will commence on the evenly paved streets of Denmark in 2021. Fitting for one of the most bike-friendly countries in the world yes, but is it worth the hype?

Tour de France will see its beginning on the streets of Denmark. Politicians were quick to point out the benefits (photo: Pixabay)

On the 21st of February, the Danish prime minister made the announcement in a press conference – Tour de France will start in Denmark in 2021, with races to take place in Copenhagen, Roskilde, Nyborg, Vejle and Sønderborg.

Even the Danish Crown Prince was present during the press conference and expressed his amiable feelings toward the grand event.

The Danish minister of commerce and tourism, Rasmus Jarlov, was quick to announce that Tour de France will be a great commercial and financial success for Denmark, referring to the fact that the German city of Düsseldorf (where the Tour de France started in 2014) earned PR-exposure worth an estimated 3,3 billion DKK.

According to DR, it will cost between 90-100 million DKK to get the Tour de France to Denmark. The government will pay the first 17 million DKK and the municipalities are left with the rest of the bill.

Even though we are likely to benefit from the immense event, drawing enthusiasts from almost 200 countries around the world, I find it hard to share the enthusiasm for a sport so heavily influenced by which team that have the best doctor…

Also, I guess this means that we can look forward to even more middle-aged men in brightly coloured tricots claiming ownership of the roads while they hurl across the countryside, thinking that they have a shot at the yellow jersey – the Tour de France leader-shirt.

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

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