A former minister leaked secret information about the congestion charge negotiations to PR agency Waterfront, which in turn passed the information on to national rail operators DSB, Jyllands-Posten newspaper reported this weekend.
The information from the Finance Ministry was supposed to provide DSB with an advantage during negotiations about the increased role of public transport if the congestion charge was introduced. The planned congestion charge (betalingsring) was abandoned last year after strong opposition.
“I have received confidential information from the Finance Ministry about the negotiations to introduce the congestion charge,” Waterfront managing director Lars Poulsen wrote in an email to DSB’s deputy directors Claus Klitholm and Peter Nedergaard Nielsen in January 2012. “The information was obtained through a personal contact to a former minister which will close if we abuse it.”
DSB paid Waterfront 7.9 million kroner between 2009 and 2012 to promote the state-owned rail operator. The two companies have been engulfed in a scandal over the past few weeks, however, after leaked email correspondence demonstrated just how close their relationship was and raised questions about its legality.
The first revelation was that DSB paid Waterfront to employ a journalist who was critical of DSB so that he wouldn’t have time to write about the company.
And last week, more emails revealed how Waterfront’s environmental think-tank, Copenhagen Climate Network (CCN), was used to secretly promote DSB’s interests. CCN’s former chairperson, Ida Auken (Socialistisk Folkeparti, who now serves as the current environment minister, says she was unaware that CCN was being used to promote DSB at the time.
DSB also used Waterfront to court Dansk Folkeparti (DF), the former government’s support party, in an attempt to improve the party’s view of the rail operator.
Public broadcaster DR revealed yesterday that DF’s transport spokesperson, Kim Christiansen, profited personally from his meetings with Waterfront after he and his wife sold 530 cups and 55 thermoses worth 36,798 kroner to CCN. DR also revealed that Christiansen on at least one occasion was given concert tickets paid for by Waterfront.
Christiansen said he offered to provide goods after a CCN employee he met while meeting with Waterfront explained how they were short of the goods.
He said he regretted making the deal but added that it was merely a favour.
“In hindsight it probably wasn’t a good idea,” Christiansen said. “But it’s relatively innocent. It’s pocket money really.”
DSB suspended deputy director Peter Nedergaard and fired Waterfront after the revelations began to surface in the media in January.