Loftgate: Spotlight swings from aide to ex-minister

Missing minutes and ex-minister’s “confidentiality” claim cast more shadows on Tax Ministry scandal


Politicians from parties on both the left and the right are calling on former tax minister Troels Lund Poulsen (Venstre) to step forward and tell what he knows about why a top Tax Ministry official was involved in a personal audit of the prime minister, Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne), and her husband Stephen Kinnock in the summer of 2010.

At the time, Thorning-Schmidt was the leader of the opposition and widely predicted to beat then-PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Venstre) in September’s general election.

Five times in the summer of 2010, Poulsen’s right-hand man, the Tax Ministry’s top civil servant, Peter Loft, met with Erling Andersen, the director of the Copenhagen division of tax authority Skat, to discuss the opposition leader’s audit.

By law, the Tax Ministry is not allowed to get involved in personal, ongoing tax cases – let alone the personal audit of the government’s biggest rival.

The current tax minister, Thor Möger Pedersen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), has asked both Loft and Andersen for written explanations of the unorthodox meetings. Various politicians have also asked Poulsen to explain how the ministryÂ’s ranking permanent employee came to be involved in Thorning-Schmidt’s audit. But Poulsen has refused to comment, claiming “confidentiality”.

“The most I can do is approve of the [current] tax minister’s decision. I have only a single interest, and that is that all of the details in this case come out,” Poulsen wrote in an email to Berlingske newspaper.

But Poulsen’s rationale failed to convince other politicians – even those in parties allied with Venstre.

“It has to do with Troels Lund’s own actions in the matter, so I have a very hard time imagining how he should be subject to confidentiality,” Ole Birk Olesen, the Liberal Alliance tax spokesperson, told Berlingske.

“Troels Lund Poulsen should explain his role and that of the Tax Ministry in the audit. He has a moral duty to do so since he was the minister and his decisions affected all citizens,” Olesen continued. “He ought to hold a press conference so that all the journalists at Christiansborg [the seat of government] have the chance to ask the relevant questions about the case.”

Instead, on Wednesday, Poulsen told Thorrning-Schmidt that if she would publicise her tax claims, then he would comment on what she publicised.

Ironically, Poulsen himself refused to do just that in 2010, according to Jyllands-Posten newspaper. In November, 2010, it was revealed that when Poulsen was the environment minister he accepted a Rolex watch worth 68,000 kroner from the king of Saudi Arabia. He was challenged to release his tax claim and prove whether he had declared the gift. He refused.

Socialdemokraterne political spokesperson Magnus Heunicke urged Poulsen to be forthcoming about what he knows about the Tax Ministry’s involvement in Thorning-Schmidt’s audit.

“I would just say to Troels Lund that he can count on it all coming out one day, so it doesn’t do him any good to hide,” Heunicke said.

Dansk Folkeparti tax spokesperson Dennis Flydtkjær said it was not enough that Loft and Andersen were writing their own explanations of the meetings that took place. Flydtkjær said that an external, independent investigation was called for. He added that if he were tax minister, “Peter Loft would be gone now.”

In related news, it now appears that no minutes were taken during the five meetings between Loft and Andersen about Thorning-Schmidt’s audit – an unusual situation, according to an expert in administrative law.

“In general, it’s unusual if notes are not taken in meetings about relatively important subjects,” Copenhagen Business School professor Claus Haagen Jensen told the tabloid Ekstra Bladet. After obtaining Andersen’s diary under a freedom of information request, Ekstra Bladet found that there were no notes taken during the five meetings.

“If factual information that could be important comes out in a meeting, then it should be noted. That’s clearly stated in public law,” he added.

Andersen has promised to explain why notes were not taken during the meetings.

Loft has refused to comment on the case.

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Top aide accused of interfering in Thorning-Schmidt tax audit

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