Labour Party politician and former Member of Parliament Hege Haukeland Liadal has been sentenced to seven months in prison and ordered to pay NOK 99,000 back to Parliament, after being found guilty of filing fraudulent expense accounts. She’s the latest MP to be sent to jail for betraying the public’s trust.
Liadal was found guilty of delivering 61 fraudulent claims for reimbursement, and receiving NOK 125,353 to which she was not entitled. The court also ordered her to pay around NOK 30,000 in court costs.
Newspaper Aftenposten had uncovered the errors and discrepancies on Liadal’s expense claims during its investigations over the past few years into some elected politicians’ exploitation of the Parliament’s and government’s generous pay and benefits systems. At the same time, the Parliament has come under severe criticism for failing to monitor their own systems, and catch MPs’ errors or false claims themselves.
Liadal claimed in court that she had misunderstood expense claim rules and made mistakes, but never intended to cheat the Parliament for personal gain. She also claimed Parliament administrators did a poor job of checking or auditing expense claims.
Judge Steinar Backe, however, ruled that prosecutors had proven “beyond any reasonable doubt that the defendant has engaged in serious fraud.” She claimed reimbursement for trips that either weren’t taken or were not directly tied to her duties as an MP. In other cases she claimed excessive amounts for mileage reimbursement when driving, for example, between her home in Haugesund and Parliament in Oslo.
Labour’s top administration, Party Secretary Kjersti Stenseng, called the case against Liadal “serious” both for Liadal herself and for politics in general. “Politicians rely on public trust, and it’s sad when we get cases like this,” Stenseng told news bureau NTB after Friday’s ruling was handed down just before the weekend.
“We take the decision from the Oslo County Court seriously and are glad that Liadal has said all along that she will refund what she owes,” Stenseng said. “At the same time, Hege has done a good job as an elected official for several years and for our party, and we will support her as a fellow human being in the time to come.”