Famed diplomat resigns in shame

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Terje Rød-Larsen has long been one of Norway’s most well-known diplomats, not least for his large global network of people in powerful positions. Now, after being publicly scolded by the former prime minister of Australia, he’s had to resign as head of the International Peace Institute (IPI) in New York for failing to inform its board of directors about how he’d secured donations and even borrowed money from the late convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein.

Norwegian diplomat Terje Rød-Larsen apologized to IPI’s board for his “failed judgment” in his dealings with the late financier and convicted sex offender Jeffrey Epstein. PHOTO: Wikipedia/IPI

Rød-Larsen’s resignation came late last week after an extraordinary meeting of IPI’s board led by the former Australian premier Kevin Rudd. It also followed Rød-Larsen’s refusal over the past year to answer any questions from Oslo-based newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) about both his professional and social dealings with Epstein, who committed suicide last year while facing new sex trafficking charges.

The prize-winning DN, which also ranks as Norway’s major business news daily, has run a string of stories over the past year about Epstein’s ties to Norwegians including not just Rød-Larsen but also Crown Princess Mette-Marit. She publicly apologized for the mostly social contact she had with Epstein between 2011 and 2013.

Rød-Larsen, however, refused to respond to DN and has even dodged DN‘s journalists on the streets of New York. Last week, after DN further reported how Rød-Larsen had also been in personal debt to Epstein, Rudd responded for the first time by lashing out at the IPI president.

Rudd declared in a statement sent to DN that neither the loan (from Epstein to Rød-Larsen) nor Rød-Larsen’s repayment of it had been disclosed to either himself or IPI’s board. He stated that Rød-Larsen had apologized for what he described as his own bad judgment.

‘Hideous’
Rudd further declared that he was “deeply disappointed” that IPI’s board had to find out “so much of this” through the media. He stated that the board took the situation very seriously and that he had called for an extraordinary board meeting and demanded a full report from Rød-Larsen.

After the meeting in New York, IPI issued a new statement announcing Rød-Larsen’s resignation. “Mr Rød-Larsen apologized to the board for his failed judgment in securing donations from foundations related to Jeffrey Epstein and in securing his own personal loan from Epstein in 2013, neither of which the board was aware,” reads the statement.

Kevin Rudd, the former Australian prime minister who leads IPI’s board, was not pleased with Terje Rød-Larsen’s dealing with Jeffrey Epstein, and accepted Rød-Larsen’s resignation as IPI president late last week. PHOTO: Wikipedia

“Epstein’s crimes were hideous,” the statement continued. “The notion that IPI would be in any way engaged with such an odious character is repugnant to the institution’s core values.”

IPI claimed it otherwise “has been a first-class institution for the last 50 years” following its founding in 1970 in a partnership with UN Secretary General U Thant at the time. “Its mission statement all along has been to support the United Nations to deliver on its peace and security, sustainable development and human rights mandate.”

Now it needs, according to the statement, “to safeguard its integrity for the future,” not least after UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres recently resigned as an honorary member of IPI’s board. The board announced it will commission “an immediate audit of IPI’s finances to make sure that all Epstein foundation donations have been identified.” The institution already announced last November, after DN‘s first stories about Epstein-related donations, that it intended to donate a sum “equivalent to any donations received from Epstein’s foundations to programs that support victims of human trafficking and sexual assault.”

‘Disgraceful’
Most of Epstein’s donations have been linked to the late financier’s attempts to buy his way back into society after his first conviction as a sex offender. The board’s statement now declares that it is taking “the strict view that every dollar should be re-donated.”

Even though DN has published emails that Rød-Larsen had once authorized a payment from IPI to Epstein, the board now claims that no payments to Epstein were ever made. The board also has launched a new “Gift Acceptance Policy to ensure that any future donors need to satisfy a test of good character.” A “stricter and more comprehensive Code of Conduct” has also been implemented at IPI. Rød-Larsen has already been replaced by current IPI vice president Adam Lupel as acting president and CEO.

It all amounts to a what newspaper Aftenposten’s political commentator Kjetil B Alstadheim called a “disgraceful” end to Rød-Larsen’s diplomatic career that IPI otherwise called “distinguished.” Rød-Larsen is best known, along with his wife Mona Juul, for their role in negotiating the Oslo Agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians in the mid-1990s. He’s been well-connected with the UN ever since and has served as a UN envoy.

Rød-Larsen’s wife Mona Juul currently serves as Norway’s ambassador to the UN. PHOTO: UN/Manuel Elias

Juul currently serves as Norway’s ambassador to the UN and played a major role in Norway’s recent campaign for a seat on the UN Security Council. When asked whether IPI or Rød-Larsen was involved in that campaign, Trude Måseide of the Foreign Ministry told newsinenglish.no last spring “not at all.”

Rød-Larsen has faced questions not only from DN but also from the ministry itself. Måseide has noted how Foreign Minister Ine Eriksen Søreide sought more openness from Rød-Larsen as early as January, not least since the ministry has funded IPI to the tune of NOK 130 million over many years. Norway’s state auditor general (Riksrevisjonen) is currently examining the foreign ministry’s relations with IPI, an audit strongly supported by Parliament where calls have gone out to cut off funding to IPI.

The 72-year-old Rød-Larsen still hasn’t answered DN‘s questions but reportedly sent a letter to some of IPI’s supporters in which he also admitted to exhibiting bad judgment in his dealings with Jeffrey Epstein. He reportedly wrote that he was sorry that many of them had been contacted by what he called “the tabloid newspaper Dagens Næringsliv.” It should be noted that DN is a highly regarded media outlet in Norway and has won many awards for its investigative journalism.

NewsInEnglish.no/Nina Berglund