Top official tried to cover up involvement in ‘Taxgate’

Top tax ministry civil servant asked the tax agency to remove documents that showed he tried to influence the tax audit of the PM and her husband

A top civil servant attempted to influence a tax audit of PM Helle Thorning-Schmidt (Socialdemokraterne) and asked leading officials in the tax agency, Skat, to hide the evidence, a tribunal investigating the matter was told this week.

The documents were supposed to be handed to the parliamentary ombudsman who was investigating why journalists had been denied freedom of information requests.

The revelations were made during the so-called “Taxgate” hearings that are attempting to uncover political influence into the tax audit of Thorning-Schmidt and her husband Neil Kinnock while she was leader of the opposition.

READ MORE: Taxgate: How it all went down

The audit was started after the tabloid BT revealed in June 2010 that Kinnock, who at the time was employed in Switzerland, wasn’t paying tax in Denmark.

In September the tax authorities found Kinnock was not required to pay tax in Denmark after all, clearing Thorning-Schmidt’s name and readying her for the general election the following year.

BT’s revelations had piqued the interest of journalists who submitted freedom of information requests to try and uncover whether the-then tax minister, Troels Lund Poulsen (Venstre), was attempting to influence the outcome of the opposition leader’s tax audit.

Requests for information denied

These requests were denied, however, leading the parliamentary ombudsman to start an investigation.

This investigation spooked the Tax Ministry’s permanent secretary at the time, Peter Loft, who had held five meetings with Skat about Thorning-Schmidt’s audit in the months before it was concluded.

In one meeting with Erling Andersen, the head of Skat’s Copenhagen office, Loft handed over an anonymous memo that asked Andersen to consider Thorning-Schmidt’s audit.

Potential cover-up

It is presumably this attempt to influence the case that Loft was trying to hide when in December 2010 he asked Skat officials to delete documents.

“He made it clear that his name should not appear connected to the case,” Andersen explained, adding that he told Loft that deleting the documents was not permitted.

Further evidence gathered from emails between civil servants and testimony from the-then head of Skat, Lisbeth Rasmussen, also indicated that Loft attempted to remove evidence that he had tried to influence the PM's audit from the documentation that was handed to the ombudsman.