Former spin doctor spends another day in front of Taxgate commission

Peter Arnfeldt said numerous people had access to PM’s private tax audit and that rumours of her husband’s sexuality have been circulating for some time

Testimony in the investigation into the illegal leak of PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt’s private tax information resumed yesterday, and once again it was former spin doctor Peter Arnfeldt in the hot seat.

Arnfeldt, who served as spin doctor to the former tax minister, Troels Lund Poulsen (Venstre), was previously dragged in front of the Taxgate commission in August, at which time he admitted that he had a copy of the results of an audit by tax authority Skat of Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) and her husband, Stephen Kinnock, but claimed to have destroyed the copy after she announced she would publicly release the conclusion.

Shortly after his first appearance before the commission, Arnfeldt was formally charged by police on a “basis of suspicion” that he leaked the audit. The charge could potentially carry a two-year prison sentence.

Yesterday’s testimony focused on potential abuses of power connected to the 2010 audit, which ultimately determined that Kinnock, a British national who worked in Switzerland at the time, did not owe Danish taxes. The confidential audit was leaked to BT tabloid prior to last year's general election. Arnfeldt was reported to the police for the leak and Poulsen was forced to take a leave of absence from parliament. The top aide to then-PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen (Venstre) has also admitted to being involved in meetings about the audit.

Arnfeldt told the commission yesterday that he informed Poulsen of BT’s interest in the story. Arnfeldt admitted to being “excited” at the interest, but denied looking at the story from the perspective of what it would mean for Thorning-Schmidt’s political career.

Yesterday’s testimony also brought to light the rumours about Kinnock’s sexuality, showing the political wisdom of Thorning-Schmidt’s rather unorthodox step in August of going on the offensive and pre-emptively striking down a comment in the audit that insinuates Kinnock is gay.

Arnfeldt told the commission that he was aware of the rumours as far back as 2010.

“I received information in mid-August [2010] from Troels Lund that Stephen Kinnock was either homosexual or bisexual,” Arnfeldt said. “I asked [former top Tax Ministry official] Peter Loft about it, and he said that the information came from [the head of tax authority Skat’s Copenhagen office] Erling Andersen.”

Five times in 2010, Loft and Andersen met to discuss Thorning-Schmidt’s audit. Loft also apparently gave Andersen a memo thought to have been written by Poulsen that sought to influence the audit. Loft was fired by by the current tax minister, Thor Möger Pedersen (Socialistisk Folkeparti), in March for his role in the Taxgate affair.

Arnfeldt said yesterday that he was present at a meeting between Poulsen and Loft where the two men discussed Skat’s outline of whether Thorning-Schmidt and Kinnock were subject to Danish tax laws.

During the first two days of testimony in August, Jan Kjærgaard, a journalist with the tabloid Ekstra Bladet, testified to the close working relationship he had with Arnfeldt, and said he had met with him six times. Arnfeldt largely refuted Kjærgaard’s version. Yesterday, Arnfeldt said that he was also contacted by Simon Andersen, a journalist with BT, who was interested in the audit. According to Arnfeldt, at least 20 people had access to Skat’s outline.

“Surprisingly for me, [Skat’s outline] suddenly appeared as a PDF file,” Arnfeldt said. He denied sending the file to anyone.

The Taxgate commission will hold its next meeting on October 23. It will call witnesses off and on through March 2013. Various journalists, Skat employees and high-ranking government officials, including Poulsen and former PM Lars Løkke Rasmussen, are scheduled to appear.