Things have just gotten a bit darker for the man the national press has dubbed ‘The Price of Darkness’.
After spending last Wednesday under the glare of the Taxgate commission’s hearing, Peter Arnfeldt, the former spin doctor to the previous tax minister, Troels Lund Poulsen (Venstre), has now been formally charged by police in the leak of PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s confidential tax audit. The charge could potentially carry a two-year prison sentence.
In front of the commission last week, Arnfeldt denied leaking details of Thorning-Schmidt’s audit to the tabloid BT and refuted several of the claims made by Ekstra Bladet journalist Jan Kjærsgaard, who said Arnfeldt also offered up the confidential information to him.
Despite his denial, Arnfeldt has now been charged with unlawfully disclosing confidential information to BT and attempting to do the same to Ekstra Bladet. Copenhagen Police announced the preliminary charge in a press release yesterday which cited a “basis of suspicion” arising from Arnfeldt’s appearance in front of the commission.
The release stressed that Arnfeldt has not been indicted on the charge and clarified that the statute of limitations on the leak, which occurred shortly before last year’s general election in September.
Speaking to TV2 News, Arnfeldt said he was caught off guard by the charges.
“I am very surprised by the police’s charge,” he told TV2 News. “I think it paints a picture of a disagreeable mixture of politics and law in this case.”
Arnfeldt wasn’t the only one who was surprised. Speaking to Politiken newspaper, Jørn Vestergaard, a criminal law professor at the University of Copenhagen, said that the police’s very formulation of the charge was unusual.
“It’s oddly backwards to first stress that Peter Arnfeldt hasn't been indicted, found guilty or sentenced,” Vestergaard said. “The police’s normal point of departure is that they have some evidence against a suspect that they expect can lead to an indictment. You can’t just charge someone just in case or to avoid that the case becomes out of date.”
Vestergaard said that nothing new came out of last week’s hearing that could have led to the charges. Ritzau news bureau characterised the police decision as “a bit of a flip-flop”, referencing the fact that in March of this year, police said there were no grounds for a charge.
Michael Gøtze, a professor of law at the University of Copenhagen, also thought the timing was strange.
“The hearings haven’t brought any new vital information forward that we didn’t already know,” Gøtze told Politiken. “What Ekstra Bladet revealed wasn’t pretty, to be sure, but there wasn’t any new evidence. But it’s not certain we know the whole story. Copenhagen Police and the commission might very well have some documents that we don’t know about.”
Arnfeldt will be back in front of the Taxgate commission on October 11.