Denmark frees ex-spy boss accused of leaks

Denmark's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of an ex-military intelligence chief held in custody for more than two months on suspicion of leaking confidential documents.

Denmark's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of an ex-military intelligence chief Lars Findsen
Denmark's Supreme Court on Thursday ordered the release of an ex-military intelligence chief Lars Findsen. File photo: Ida Guldbæk Arentsen/Ritzau Scanpix

The details of the investigation into Lars Findsen are classified, but the case comes in the wake of a scandal regarding the Danish intelligence services’ cooperation with the US National Security Agency (NSA).

Former defence minister Claus Hjort Frederiksen is also being investigated for allegedly divulging state secrets in the matter.

The Supreme Court on Thursday said Findsen, the former head of the FE military intelligence service, “must be released”.

In a statement, the court found nonetheless that there were “well-founded suspicions” that Findsen, who was placed on leave in 2020 despite an untarnished career, had violated an article of the law on state secrets.

“I am naturally happy and grateful for the Supreme Court’s decision,” Findsen said in a statement released by his lawyer.

Findsen has denied the charges against him.

He was arrested on December 8th, 2021 at Copenhagen airport. Three other former and current intelligence officials were also arrested but released shortly thereafter.

READ ALSO: Danish military intelligence head held over leaks

In August 2020, Findsen and several other intelligence officers had been suddenly fired by then defence minister Trine Bramsen.

The exact cause of their dismissal was never disclosed.

But the government accused them of hiding “essential and crucial information” and providing “false information to the authorities” between 2014 and 2020, amid suspicions his service was conducting illegal surveillance.

In May 2021, an investigation by several Danish media, including public broadcaster DR, revealed that the NSA had used Danish underwater cables to spy on officials in Germany, Sweden, Norway and France until at least 2014. 

Former German chancellor Angela Merkel was among the targets of the NSA’s activities.

The revelations sparked an international scandal and the four countries demanded explanations from Washington and Copenhagen.

DR’s revelations were based on a classified Danish military intelligence report codenamed “Operation Dunhammer”.

It was compiled by a secret internal working group at FE after the Edward Snowden scandal and was presented to top FE management in May 2015.

The scandal has also embroiled Hjort Frederiksen, who served as defence minister between 2016 and 2019 and is also accused of leaking state secrets.

He confirmed that ex-US president Bill Clinton and former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen reached an agreement on the use of the underwater cables at the end of the 1990s.

“That’s what I understood. That’s how it is. From what I know,” he told TV2 in December.

Among other embarrassing intelligence details, he also revealed that the agents suspended in 2020 were those who had been in direct contact with the Americans on the matter of the underwater cables. 

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Denmark police receive 456 reports of fraud from the corona relief fund

The National Unit for Special Crime has received 456 reports of fraud from the corona relief packages since 1st April 2020, according to a press release from the Money Laundering Secretariat (Hvidvasksekretariatet).

Denmark police receive 456 reports of fraud from the corona relief fund

The frauds and attempted frauds amount to 212 million kroner, although some of the scams were discovered before the fraudsters got the money. More than 28 million kroner has been recovered through 102 recovery operations.

According to Jørgen Andersen, deputy police inspector and head of the Money Laundering Secretariat, the task has been taken “very seriously” in the secretariat since the introduction of corona relief packages.

“And it has had a high priority with us as authorities. But also with the notifiers – here primarily banks and the accountants – and we sat down together quite quickly in a community.

“Here, we organised the effort in such a way that when banks and auditors sent notifications to us where there was a suspicion of misuse of schemes, we typically sent them within 24 hours to the authorities who paid money on these schemes”, Andersen says.

Companies or individuals should contact the Money Laundering Secretariat (Hvidvasksekretariatet) if they suspect money laundering or terrorist financing.

In October 2020, an eight-billion kroner stimulus package was agreed in parliament to help Danish businesses and cultural institutions hit by the coronavirus crisis.

The financial package also included a liquidity fund totalling 28 million kroner. 

READ ALSO: Denmark announces new coronavirus relief for businesses and culture