A retired Norwegian Supreme Court justice has taken it upon himself to evaluate the grounds for a series of welfare fraud convictions deemed by state officials themselves to be wrongful. Judge Karl Arne Utgård doesn’t think they’re so scandalous after all.
Utgård told legal news website Rett24 this week that he doesn’t think state welfare agency NAV erred so badly as it thinks itself. Nor does he see reason to retry the NAV cases that sent 48 people to jail. He claims NAV allowed more export of welfare benefits like sick leave and unemployment pay than it needed to under its trade and policy agreement with the EU, which allows full freedom of movement over borders.
A law professor at the University of Oslo also now thinks NAV and government officials were too tough on themselves in declaring that NAV’s prosecution of alleged welfare cheats amounted to a scandal. Tarjei Bekkedal told newspaper Aftenposten that it remains unclear how the EU rules to which Norway must adhere can or should be interpreted.
State and NAV officials, however, are not letting themselves off the hook. “It’s not unusual that a professional debate arises in the aftermath of cases that have received so much attention,” new labour and welfare minister Torbjørn Røe Isaksen told Aftenposten. “We have launched an investigation and will wait for its conclusions.”