Distortion: good at parties, bad with numbers

City Council says shady financial dealings in the festival’s books were “not malicious” and offers full backing for festival’s “creative” organisers

The Distortion festival kicks off today in Copenhagen, drawing thousands of young people to party in the city's streets and nightclubs over the next five days.

But the grey cloud cover may prove an ominous start for the festival. Today, Politiken newspaper ran two articles alleging financial mismanagement by the famously chaotic organisation that runs the festival.

The accusations target the festivals’ director, and former Copenhagen Post employee, Thomas Fleurquin, who owns Distortion and runs it through his company NusNus.

According to Politiken, Fleurquin illegally borrowed money on three occasions from the festival that this year received 1.15 million kroner of state support.

Accounting experts contacted by Politiken, the transfers of 120,507 kroner in 2008, 18,197 kroner in 2010 and 15,000 kroner in 2011 were illegal.

“What the accounts show is clearly illegal,” Lars Kiertzner, an authorised auditor and lecturer in accounting at Copenhagen Business School, told Politiken. “It looks as if he is using [the company’s] money as a kind of overdraft for when he needs money.”

Peter Gath, an authorised accountant and partner at accounting firm KPMG, agreed with Kiertzner’s assessment.

“You can’t give yourself loans like that. It’s against the law,” Gath told Politiken.

Fleurquin admitted that the transfers had taken place but explained that they were all mistakes that were rectified. He stressed that the money was returned in full.

“I’m not very good at administration. I don’t know what you are and are not allowed to do,” Fleurquin told Politiken. “The party is important. The economy and the organisation are second. That’s how Distortion has always been.”

Politiken wrote its story after being given access to the festival’s accounts. In their investigation, they drew attention to many discrepancies in the company’s accounts such as the true extent of the deficit from last year’s festival, now estimated by Fleurquin to be about 780,000 kroner.

Fleurquin argued, however, that the mistakes were to be expected as their goal was to hold parties and not to ensure the numbers always added up.

“The reality is that we have focused on creating a good party first and doing the administration later. I have learned to become a director a little against my will, although I have always wanted to do it. All of those rules with VAT and whether you can withdraw your salary or not I have learned as we’ve gone along. But administration has never been our focus,” Fleurquin told Politiken.

Politiken could not reach Copenhagen’s deputy mayor for culture and leisure, Pia Allerslev (Venstre) for comment. Allerslev did give an interview to state broadcaster DR, however, in which she expressed her full support for the festival.

“We know it wasn’t done maliciously and that it was corrected, and we are now following it very closely to make sure it doesn’t’ happen again,” Allerslev said, referring to the illegal loans.

“We are working with some very creative people who are much more concerned with creating a great party than making sure all the formal arrangements are under control.”

Fleurquin has said that this year may be the last with free street parties. Last year’s deficit was a result of too few attendees in the evening club nights that guests have to purchase tickets for.

Regardless, it is expected that much greater attention will be paid to rubbish collection and toilet provisions for the thousands of revellers in Copenhagen’s streets.

The city's police force is also stepping up efforts to keep order during Distortion, as they announced today that they will use Twitter to keep party-goers informed.

“A small but good example could be that we might tweet that it is not sensible to take your bicycle to the street festival,” the Copenhagen Police wrote in a press release, saying that bicycles could create obstacles for emergency vehicles. “Our focus is that the festival proceed properly and without compromising safety. If anything happens, emergency vehicles have to be able to access the party areas.”'

Read the Copenhagen Post's guide to this year's Distortion festival.