A Member of Parliament (MP) for the Labour Party has been indicted on charges of defrauding Parliament by filing multiple claims for false travel expenses. Hege Haukeland Liadal still claims she simply made mistakes and never intended to claim more money than she was owed.
Prosecutors disagree. After investigating the charges first filed nearly two years ago, after newspaper Aftenposten had uncovered irregularities in Liadal’s expense accounts, prosecutors contend that Liadal knew her expense claims contained incorrect information. They also claim she filed for reimbursements that she knew were unfounded.
They include charging the state for travel that never took place or that involved private family trips. She has allegedly claimed reimbursement for hotel stays and travel tied to her role as leader of the board of Rutebåten Utsira AS, and not to her work as a Member of Parliament. According to court documents she also claimed overnight stays for trips that only lasted a day, or that were tied to meetings when she stayed at her own home in Rogaland, on Norway’s West Coast.
Aftenposten has earlier reported that Liadal inflated the mileage distance between her home and Oslo, for which she claimed excessive mileage reimbursement. The total amount of money involved amounts to around NOK 115,000 (USD 13,500). It’s mostly the principle that’s at stake in her case, with prosecutors claiming they found around 60 cases of fradulent expense claims after going through as many as 700 of the receipts Liadal delivered in to the Parliament between 2016 and 2018.
Her defense attorney argues that the actual amount of claims where errors were found is low. He also claims that her alleged fraud was not premeditated and that “she had no intention of enriching herself at the expense of the state.” Liadal denies any criminal offense. She has admitted to negligence.
She published a statement on social media after the indictment came down late last week that “I have made mistakes on my travel expense claims and I want to once again apologize for that in the strongest of terms, but it wasn’t willful or intentional. I hope to be believed on that point, but time will tell.” She faces prison terms of between one and six years.
Liadal has continued to represent Rogaland in Parliament as the police investigation proceeded, and she’s a member of its health and welfare committee. Labour Party leader Jonas Gahr Støre referred questions to the leader of Labour’s chapter in Rogaland, Torstein Tvedt Solberg. He issued a short statement that it was “extremely unfortunate that Hege has unjustly received money from Parliament. She has said herself that she will make up for this and that all the money will be repaid. Apart from that we can only await a verdict in her case.” Her trial is due to take place in the autumn.