The former parliamentary representative for the Labor Party is convicted of knowingly delivering false travel invoices. The Storting is criticized for lack of control.
In November and December, Hege Haukeland Liadal had to appear in Oslo District Court. The former Storting politician was charged with gross fraud.
Now the verdict is ready.
The court finds former parliamentary representative Hege Haukeland Liadal (Labor Party) guilty of gross fraud.
She is sentenced to seven months unconditional imprisonment. She is sentenced to pay back 99,872 kroner to the Storting. She has to pay approx. NOK 30,000 in legal costs.
Prosecutors asked for nine months in prison for Liadal. They also thought that she should pay back 107,000 kroner to the Storting, as well as 300,000 kroner in legal costs.
The verdict is not final. Liadal took time to consider the question of appeal. So did the prosecution.
Convicted in 47 of 52 points
The charges against Liadal consisted of 52 sub-items. The court believes that it has been proven that she deliberately stated incorrect travel expenses for 47 of the 52 charges.
The court believes it has been proven that Liadal has given up travel to places she has not been to. The court finds it proven that she has received night allowance without accommodation and allowance for a car without driving a car herself.
State Attorney Monica Kragh Pettersen interprets the verdict as meaning that the court also believes that Liadal has abused his trust as a parliamentary representative.
– We must read the premises carefully, but it seems as if the district court in practice has fully shared the prosecution’s view both in the question of guilt and the sentencing, Pettersen says to Aftenposten.
Liadal has repeatedly stated that she does not remember and that she has messed up. But the court believes it is unlikely that she would not have remembered where she traveled, since the travel bills are largely delivered right after the trips.
In five of the individual trips, the court does not find it proven that Liadal deliberately misled the Storting.
Criticized the Storting’s control
Among many of Liadal’s voyages, several went to the island of Utsira. There she is a board member of Rutebåten Utsira AS. In the question of whether she was entitled to compensation from the Storting for these trips, the court was divided.
One co-judge thinks the guilt claim not is proven, but so did the other two.
Utsira’s travel expenses never included information that Liadal would attend board meetings. The majority of the court emphasizes that she stated other reasons for the journeys, and that she therefore gave the impression that the journeys were something other than what they were.
– The majority believes that these bills were an attempt to hide the realities, said the court’s administrator Steinar Backe.
Backe also criticized the Storting’s system of control over travel expenses.
During the reading, Backe said that the Storting lacked control. He said the system was completely based on trust. He added that the employees in the Storting’s administration had not been given the tools needed to have control.
– There is in reality no control over the journeys, Backe said.
Liadal is not surprised
Liadal remained calm, but shook his head slightly when the verdict and sentencing were read out. She took notes along the way, as the judge read out the various records.
Aftenposten revealed in April 2019 that Liadal had delivered incorrect travel invoices. The Storting reviewed Liadal. Afterwards, the police started an investigation.
– Are you surprised by the verdict?
– I’m not surprised, but I’m sorry. I have been realistic considering that this could have many outcomes. As I have said this time: Yes, there are errors in some of my 753 travel expenses. But I have never done it on purpose, Liadal told Aftenposten after the court was lifted.
– The hope at the height of gross negligent fraud
– I’m not surprised by anything anymore, but I’m disappointed. I had hoped that the amount would be considerably lower, that she was acquitted of several counts and of course that she was not convicted of intentional gross fraud, but at the height of gross negligent fraud, says Liadal’s defender Erik Lea.
He says he will now read the entire sentence before advising his client on the question of appealing guilt, sentencing or all.
– If I were to advise her to appeal, the second question is whether she can stand it. I would then assume that one may not get the case up in the Court of Appeal until over the summer. Now she has been doing this for almost three years, and it is a burden to go and wait, says Lea.
The fact that she was a parliamentary representative meant that the fraud was gross, the prosecution believed. They thought it was a breach of trust towards the Storting and the voters.
In his procedure, the police attorney referred to the Storting’s scheme for travel expenses for an inexhaustible source with free access to public funds.