Mazyar Keshvari, a Member of Parliament for the Progress Party, has now admitted to submitting false travel expense claims amounting to NOK 450,000. Keshvari faces up to six years in jail, and isn’t the only MP currently under investigation for serious fraud.
Newspaper Aftenposten broke the news last autumn, after examing the travel expenses of Norwegian MPs, that Keshvari had turned in around NOK 290,000 worth of undocumented travel expenses for which he was reimbursed. The actual amount of fraud is thus much higher, and Keshvari has now agreed that the criminal case against him be handled as one in which he has confessed. That means he’s likely to receive a shorter prison term.
He admitted shortly after Aftenposten’s report that he had received more money than he should have, and was put on sick leave until he returned to Parliament in December and apologized.
In February, however, police were called to his home in Rælingen in Akershus County, just northeast of Oslo, which he officially has represented in Parliament. He ended up being charged again, this time for making threats, and police also found several weapons in his home. Both state broadcaster NRK and newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) have reported that Keshvari was heard on tape saying that he wanted to play Russian roulette, a potentially deadly game involving a revolver, with the target of his threats.
He then went out on sick leave again but Keshvari remains an MP since elected officials in Norway are required to serve out their terms. His term runs until 2021, with Progress Party veteran and former leader Carl I Hagen working as Keshvari’s substitute.
DN reported late last month that administrators at the Parliament (Stortinget) have received statements of concern regarding security in the Parliament’s building if Keshvari returns. Stortinget Director Marianne Andreassen confirmed the concerns and was taking them seriously but wouldn’t say how they were being followed up. The Øst Police District that covers Rælingen has also confirmed a restraining order that forbids Keshvari from taking contact with the unidentified target of his alleged threats.
His current defense attorney, meanwhile, told DN that Keshvari has denied making any threats and has not been convicted of any. He remains listed on the Progress Party’s website as an MP representing Oslo
Labour MP under investigation too
In another case, an MP for the Labour Party is also under police investigation after Aftenposten reported last spring that she also was reimbursed for false travel expense claims. The Parliament’s administration, which has since tightened the rules for expense claims, contacted police after Hege Haukeland Liadal, who also has served as a deputy leader of Labour in Rogaland, was found to have submitted false claims amounting to around NOK 60,000.
She has admitted to “making a mistake” but no charges have been filed yet and she also remains an MP. Both Liadal and Keshvari have promised to reimburse the Parliament for what they wrongly received, but Keshvari has not paid anything yet. Administrators won’t say whether any money has come from Liadal.
Keshvari continues to receive his full annual pay as an MP, NOK 987,997 (USD 110,000), as does Hagen who’s replacing him as a substitute MP.