Roskilde Festival accused of bribery

March 2nd, 2012

This article is more than 12 years old.

Festival management alleged of making donation to local council in order to influence its decision to expropriate land for use during annual music event

The justice minister is being asked to look into a decision by Roskilde Council to expropriate 60,000 square meters of land for the use of the Roskilde Festival, after accepting a donation of two artificial football pitches worth 7.5 million kroner from the festival.

Keld Bjerregaard runs a plant nursery on the soon-to-be expropriated land adjacent to the Roskilde Fairgrounds, which he rented to the festival each year.

But in 2010 Bjerregaard cancelled the agreement in dissatisfaction over a decision by the council to rezone the area as land designated for outdoor sports facilities and service areas for large events at the fairgrounds. The rezoning allowed the council to expropriate the land “for the common good” and rent it back to the Roskilde Festival at a lower price than Bjerregaard demanded.

After cancelling the agreement, Bjerregaard organised his own mini festival, Love Camp, with space for 5,000 guests, during the 2011 Roskilde Festival.

Roskilde Council has said that it attempted to purchase the land from Bjerregaard but that it was forced to abandon the effort after failing to agree on the price.

The decision to formally expropriate two thirds of Bjerregaard's 90,000 square meter property was put forward at a council meeting Wednesday. Councillor Torben Jørgensen (Socialdemokraterne) said the measure would benefit of all of Roskilde.

“We are not doing it to annoy anyone, but because it is important to us,” Jørgensen told Jyllands-Posten newspaper. “By securing the land we will have better space for sports facilities and for the festival. Of course I appreciate that [the owner of the land] is angry and it is unfortunate that we were not able to agree on a price beforehand.”

The decision to expropriate the land has been criticised for directly benefiting the Roskilde Festival soon after it donated two football pitches to the city using profits from last year’s festival.

But Christina Bilde, a spokesperson for the Roskilde Festival – a charity that gives away its profit every year – said the festival's management was "upset" by bribery accusations.

"We have donated over 200 million kroner to causes locally as well as globally. We are very proud of what we support locally,” Bilde told Berlingske newspaper, adding that the deal to donate football pitches was made last September as a way for the to help it compensate for recreational space lost due to the expansion of a gravel pit.

Roskilde mayor Joy Mogensen (Socialdemokraterne) also denied any wrongdoing.

“These are two decisions that have been in the works for a long time. For it to be bribery there have to be clear conditions for a gift and that is clearly not the case,” Mayor Joy Morgensen told Berlingske. “The law states that we are allowed to expropriate if it is in the common good. And there was one resident with whom we could not strike a deal despite lengthy discussions.”

Polticial party Liberal Alliance (LA) expressed concern that the council had abused its authority to expropriate land.

“In the past few years we have seen a slew of examples in which councils have expropriated private property for the use of golf clubs, shooting ranges and now a festival,” LA legal spokesperson Simon Emil Ammitzbøll wrote in a press release, adding that he wanted the justice minister to look into the matter.

“It appears that expropriation has been the easy option for the Roskilde Festival because they didn’t want to pay the price which the landowner had demanded. If that is the case, then it is an abuse of the rules about expropriation and has to be stopped.”

Speaking to Jyllands-Posten newspaper, landowner Bjerregaard said the case exhibits a clear conflict of interest.

“How could it possibly be legal for the council to receive such a large gift before making the decision. I don’t understand it. It’s a you-scratch-my-back-I-scratch-yours relationship between the festival and the council.”


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