Car deals landed diplomat in trouble

Bookmark and Share

A Norwegian diplomat serving temporarily as a high-ranking envoy at one of Norway’s embassies abroad lost his chance at becoming an ambassador after a spurt of lavish spending. Newspaper VG told the story on Tuesday of how the diplomat paid cash for a BMW and a Toyota, without authorization for either purchase.

Norway’s foreign ministry has had to deal with another errant diplomat who went on a shopping spree that cost one of its embassies more than NOK 3 million. He’s since been reprimanded and faces reimbursement claims. PHOTO: newsinenglish.no

It’s the latest example of a diplomat exhibiting questionable judgment, and exceeding authority, while posted abroad. In this case, VG identified neither the diplomat nor the embassy involved but communications chief for Norway’s Foreign Ministry in Oslo confirmed the unauthorized purchases. The diplomat involved, ministry spokesman Frode Overland Andersen told VG, has himself “acknowledged and apologized” for his transgressions, “and received a written reprimand from his employer.”

VG reported that the diplomat, armed with NOK 2 million in cash, paid NOK 1.2 million for the BMW and more than NOK 816,000 for the Toyota. VG noted that it was not unusual for the diplomat to use so much cash because the embassy in question has no bank account in the country where it’s located and mostly conducts business in cash.

Documents obtained by VG show that the embassy had only sought permission to buy one vehicle, “for a considerably lower amount” before the diplomat assumed his temporary post in November 2016. In addition to buying the two cars, the diplomat also purchased NOK 1.1 million worth of art and furniture, a grill, stereo equipment and even a guitar for the ambassador’s residence, much of it shipped from Norway. Several of the purchases were noted as being “clear violations” of the ministry’s purchasing regulations. All told, the purchases used up around a third of the embassy’s annual budget.

The diplomat already had applied for an ambassador’s post at another embassy and been recommended for the job. That recommendation was withdrawn after his unauthorized purchases emerged. There was no suspicion of personal gain but “clear violations of our internal regulatory framework,” Andersen told VG.

In addition to losing the ambassadorial post and receiving a written reprimand, the ministry is demanding that the diplomat refund the money used on his unauthorized purchases. Andersen said the ministry will put forth a claim to “cover the costs that were illegally charged to the state.”

The errant diplomat himself has reportedly refused to comment or read through VG‘s story before it was published on Tuesday, referring all inquiries to the ministry. In his response to the ministry’s reprimand, VG reported that he wrote that its “last paragraph” about whether he’d learned anything from the case was “to the highest degree correct.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund