First two days of Taxgate hearings offer conflicting reports

Ekstra Bladet journalist and former tax minister’s spin doctor largely contradict each other in commission’s first days of hearings

August 29th, 2012 12:28 pm| by admin

The Taxgate commission heard testimony from the first of 43 witnesses yesterday in its quest to find out who was behind the leak of Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s personal tax audit.

During Tuesday's hearings, the commission called upon Ekstra Bladet’s journalist Jan Kjærgaard and the tabloid's editor-in-chief, Poul Madsen. Kjærgaard testified to the close working relationship he had with Peter Arnfeldt, the former spin doctor for the then-tax minister, Troels Lund Poulsen, and said he had met with him six times. Kjærgaard recorded the conversations but told the commission yesterday that he subsequently deleted them.

According to Kjærgaard, Arnfeldt claimed to have the nine-page audit decision and said that he “couldn’t believe the outcome”. When Kjærgaard said he wanted to see the decision in writing, he claimed that Arnfeldt got cold feet and Ekstra Bladet decided they wouldn’t run a story on the audit.

Madsen told the commission that he didn’t feel the need to get involved with his journalist’s methods, but did say that he felt the relationship between spin doctors and journalists had got out of hand.

On Wednesday, it was Arnfeldt’s turn to appear before the commission, and he painted a different picture.

Arnfeldt denied having ever said he thought there was something strange with the decision and refuted several other of Kjærgaard’s claims. Asked by the commission if Kjærgaard had been untruthful the previous day, he replied: “That’s how I see it.”

Arnfeldt admitted to the commission that he had a copy of the decision by tax authority Skat on the Thorning-Schmidt audit, but claimed to have destroyed the copy after she announced she would publicly release the conclusion.

The commission’s next hearing will be on October 11. It will call witnesses off and on through March. Various journalists, Skat employees and high-ranking government officials, including Poulsen and former PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen are scheduled to appear.

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