Danish lawmaker given suspended sentence for EU funds fraud

COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A right-wing Danish lawmaker, considered a rising star within the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, was found guilty Friday of misusing European Union funds worth 98,835 kroner ($15,667) and falsifying documents.

A court in Lyngby, a municipality near Copenhagen, gave Morten Messerschmidt a six-month suspended sentence for making false statements about holding an EU conference in 2015 in order to receive EU funding. He maintained his innocence throughout the trial.

Messerschmidt served in the European Parliament at the time and is now deputy leader of the opposition party in Denmark’s parliament. He received more personal votes than any other Danish candidate in the 2014 EU legislative election and campaigned on a promise to combat alleged EU fraud.

The court said the politician received the EU money promising he would hold a conference in northern Denmark with his Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (MELD), a pan-European party which was dissolved in 2015. The event never took place and the money was used instead for a Danish People’s Party meeting that included soccer matches and museum visits.

The court also convicted Messerschmidt, 40, of using a forged document that he presented as a contract between the Danish People’s Party and the hotel where the MELD conference was to be held. The contract was signed by the Danish People’s Party’s administrative chief, who purported to be representing the hotel because the party was using the hotel at the same time as MELD.

During the trial, several top Danish People’s Party members and other witnesses contradicted Messerschmidt, who had plans of becoming the party’s future chairman.

He called the verdict “a surprise” and immediately appealed it. It was unclear what would happen to his political career.

The Danish People’s Party once was a kingmaker in Danish politics but it has struggled to win back its voter base. In the 2019 general election, the party received 8.7% of the vote compared to 21.1% in 2015.

The drop in popularity is partly due to the ruling Social Democrats having an immigration policy that resembles that of the populists and the establishment of a new anti-immigration party in Denmark.

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