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Palace lifts the veil on king’s fortune

Officials at the Royal Palace in Oslo changed their policy about not discussing King Harald’s fortune, and have now made a few careful disclosures, after criticism from several members of Parliament. Politicians aren’t satisfied, though, and calls for more openness continued.

Officials at the Royal Palace in Oslo made an attempt at openness, but it raised more questions. PHOTO: Views and News

A new book released Monday reports that much of King Harald’s personal fortune, and that of other members of the royal family, stems from overseas inheritances from the Danish and British royal families. The book, Dronning Mauds arv by former palace official Carl-Erik Grimstad, focuses on the estate of the late Queen Maud, a former British princess who was King Harald’s grandmother.

The book pointed out, though, that the size and scope of King Harald’s fortunes remain secret. That sparked political calls not only for more public disclosure but also for possible taxation. All other Norwegians are subject to tax on their personal net worth in addition to their income, and the state has actively pursued hidden overseas fortunes in recent years. 

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) estimated that given the inheritance revealed in Grimstad’s book and adjusted for inflation and exchange rates, King Harald may be sitting on a personal fortune of more than NOK 800 million (USD 133 million). Not so, claims the palace now, issuing a statement that the size of King Harald’s “private fortune” is “just under NOK 100 million.”

The palace added that the fortune “is placed partly in Norway and partly overseas. The King has no real estate overseas.”

The much smaller value of the monarch’s fortunes can, according to DN, indicate that either King Harald, the late King Olav (Harald’s father) or the late King Haakon (Harald’s grandfather) have used large amounts of their inherited assets or were unfortunate with their investments. DN posed further questions about the discrepancy in size, but received no answers.

Annual report suggested
Politicians welcomed the palace’s attempt at more openness, but called for more.

“When you’re receiving your income from the Norwegian state, it’s not without relevance just how large your fortune is,” the leader of the Liberal Party, Trine Skei Grande, told DN. “My advice to the palace is therefore to exhibit the greatest possible openness.”

She said the king “can gladly take some time” to develop a system for disclosure of his fortunes to the Norwegian Parliament. “A natural channel would be an annual report,” Skei Grande suggested. “If no form of systematic information is forthcoming, the Finance Ministry should send an initiative to the palace.”

Top politicians for the Progress Party, traditionally a strong defender of the monarchy, and the Socialist Left (SV), which would prefer a republic to a monarchy in Norway, agreed. “I expect the palace will receive the signals that are coming,” said Ulf Leirstein, finance policy spokesman for the Progress Party. “It would be natural for the king to inform the state of his private fortunes in an annual report.”

Lars Egeland, finance policy spokesman for SV, praised the palace “for trying to show more openness around the fortunes of the king, but it’s not enough to simply give some hints about how much money we’re talking about.”

Only the Conservative Party objected to calls for openness. Per-Kristian Foss, a former leader of the Conservatives and a former Finance Minister, told DN he sees no need for more openness, noting that “we must separate a formal demand for openness from natural curiosity.”

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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