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Thursday, May 23, 2024

Pension fraud suspects face prison

A state prosecutor asked a court in Oslo to jail two retired politicians, one for six months and the other for 60 days, claiming she’d proven that they illegally and knowingly collected pension payments that were too high.

The relatively strict jail term demand came as a surprise, not least since a string of high-profile politicians including several former prime ministers had testified that the pension rules applying to them were complicated and difficult to understand.

‘Who’s who’ on the witness stand
Many of those testifying seemed to support and defend former Members of Parliament Anders Talleraas of the Conservative Party and Magnus Stangeland of the Center Party, including former prime ministers Gro Harlem Brundtland and Kåre Willoch, the latter of whom went so far as call the two men “scapegoats” for a pension system that was far from clear.

Former Prime Minister Kjell Magne Bondevik was among the latest to appear as a witness in the case against Stangeland and Talleraas. Bondevik was also among retired politicians who received excess pension payments, as did Gro Harlem Brundtland, but they avoided charges because they questioned how much money they should have received and how much they should pay back.

Neither Stangeland nor Talleraas did that, leading prosecutor Elisabeth Roscher to claim they all should have known that they can’t receive full pension payments and another full salary at the same time. The “central point” in her prosecution, she said, was that they failed to inform pension administrators about the income they were receiving in addition to their pension, which would have reduced their pension payments. She wants Talleraas to serve six months in prison, and Stangeland 60 days.

‘Not unclear’
She claimed income limits were not unclear, that the consequences of exceeding the limits were not unclear, and that it wasn’t difficult to know what sorts of income would have reduced their pensions.

Her points had been supported by another former prime minister, Thorbjørn Jagland, who took the witness stand earlier in the week. He said “all income” should have been accounted for in determining correct pension payments, but stopped short of saying whether he though Stangeland and Talleraas exploited the system.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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