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Misuse of EU-funds: Messerschmidt’s foundations investigated for fraud
James Kristoffer Miles
Kristian B. Larsen
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SEPTEMBER 14: Messerschmidt’s foundations investigated for fraud. During Summer, the special EU anti-fraud unit, OLAF, initiated a thus far secret investigation of Morten Messerschmidt’s two European foundations Meld and Feld. The OLAF press service so informs. “We can confirm that for several months OLAF has been looking into the alleged misuse of support funds paid by the European Parliament, a spokesperson from the anti-fraud unit writes in an email reply.
According to Ekstra Bladet’s information the investigation was first initiated after the European Parliament in spring claimed approx. three million DKK to be repaid from Meld and Feld, for which Messerschmidt was officially appointed chairman in January 2015 after having been on the top management since spring 2012. After the EU election in May 2014, Messerchmidt was the only member of the European Parliament who was still on the Meld management.
Poor accounting and misuse
Since last autumn, a number of objectionable matters in Meld and Feld have been uncovered. Examples hereof are the misuse of support millions, poor accounting, debts to the EU treasury and documents with suspicious signatures. Most recently, Ekstra Bladet revealed that the two members of the European Parliament Rikke Karlsson (formerly DPP) and Jørn Dohrmann (DPP) were formally on the board of Meld, a fact they both refuse having had any knowledge of. The documents placing them on the board were signed and forwarded to the French authorities by Morten Messerschmidt. Through his political adviser Messerschmidt informs that OLAF investigators are heartily welcome in the office to look things through. The Danish Fraud Squad are also investigating the Morten Messerschmidt scandal.
He has power still
Three weeks ago, under great media attention, Messerschmidt announced his retirement as DPP group chairman in the European Parliament. However, this by far does not imply that he is no longer significant in the large house in Brussels. Because 35-year-old Morten Messerschmidt still holds the two relatively important positions as deputy leader and chief whip of the ECR group, which is the third largest group in the parliament. Morten Messerschmidt’s staff confirms to Ekstra Bladet that he retains the two ECR positions. He is, however, considering whether to run again for the deputy leadership at year-end. Anders Vistisen has taken over the leader post from Morten Messerschmidt. Just like Morten Messerschmidt he is deeply involved in the Meld and Feld scandal.
In 2014, when Morten Messerschmidt after the landslide election attained the position as chief whip of ECR, according to news agency BNB, he described the position as one of the most influential posts that you can have in a group in the parliament. As the chief whip, Morten Messerschmidt’s task is to have members of the ECR group vote as decided by the leadership.
NOVEMBER 14: FRIENDS SHARED MILLION ORDER THE MELD SCANDAL IS GROWING: A so far unknown money carousel has sent Meld money to the party treasurer with Poland’s Minister of Justice. European tax money has landed in a so far unknown money carousel through Morten Messerschmidt’s scandal-ridden “foundation” MELD, which in practice has sent money directly to the treasurer of DPP’s “sister party” in Poland. In 2014, when Morten Messerschmidt was appointed chairman of Meld, three contracts for just under one million DKK in EU money were assigned to companies, whose directors in the same year passed amounts corresponding to well over 26 percent of the money on to the Polish party Solidarna Polska (SP), which is chaired by the country’s minister of justice and former Meld member.
The year before, one of the companies had also received an order for ball pens at a value of almost 400,000 DKK. This is evident from documents which are in Ekstra Bladet’s possession. As the chairman of Meld, Morten Messerschmidt has personally signed that Meld has always followed the procurement rules of the European Parliament for contracts over 13,800 euros.
Messerschmidt’s financial statement
The three contracts for between 39,000 and 46,000 euros – collectively corresponding to DKK 940,000 – are in the financial statement, which was signed and presented by Morten Messerschmidt. At the time, the new group chairman of DPP in the parliament, Anders Vistisen, was treasurer of Meld. On presentation of the financial statement, according to EU parliament rules it is guaranteed that on entering into contracts with suppliers Meld has “avoided conflicts of interest”. According to EU rules large purchases of goods and services must be put out to tender in a “fair and transparent” procurement process with three different suppliers. Despite this, the contracts landed with companies very close to some of the most powerful people in Poland – people who up until the EP elections in the spring of 2014 held seats in the European Parliament and on the Meld management together with Morten Messerschmidt. This is evident from a list of Meld contracts that Ekstra Bladet has gained access to. In cooperation with the Polish edition of the magazine Newsweek, Ekstra Bladet has also gained access to confidential information on private donations to the party SP.
Controversial TV director
The party’s former members of the European Parliament were on the MELD board together with Messerschmidt. Today, they hold prominent positions in their home country. The case thus links directly to the Polish minister of justice, leader of the SP party Zbigniew Ziobro, and former deputy minister for culture Jacek Kurski (SP), whom the Polish government in January inaugurated as a controversial president of Poland’s public service TV station. At the same time, a number of critical editors and journalists were fired. Their press advisers communicate that Neither Morten Messerschmidt, who is on sick leave, nor Anders Vistisen wish to comment on the information accessed by Ekstra Bladet. Vistisen, however, stresses through his adviser that he “had nothing to do with the Financial statement for 2014”, even if it is dated 27 April 2015, and he took up the post as Meld treasurer almost four months earlier.
Party support in return for Meld orders? Poor memory on EU support and ball pens.
The memory is poor among the friends of the Meld family who shared orders for around one million DKK. One of the contracts for 300,000 DKK went to the Krakow based think tank Instytut Kosciuszki, which has close ties with Morten Messerschmidt’s friends in Solidarna Polska (SP), the party led by Poland’s minister of justice, Zbigniew Ziobro. The think tank was founded by Witold Ziobro, the brother of the minister of justice, who at the same time privately donated 113,000 DKK to SP. This appears from account statements to which Ekstra Bladet have been given access in cooperation with the Polish edition of Newsweek. On behalf of Ekstra Bladet, the Polish magazine has several times asked what the money was spent on. But the Polish think tank refuses to answer this question, referring to it as “confidential information”.
Fellow student handsomely rewarded
In 2014, another contract went to the Krakow based sole proprietorship, WER Studio. The owner, Waclaw Rosicki is an old fellow student of Messerschmidt’s predecessor as Meld chairman and current treasurer of the SP party, senator Jacek Wlosowicz. In addition to WER Studio in 2014 receiving a mysterious Meld order for 60,000 apparently disappeared ball pens, the year after the fellow student also received a large, new order for 290,000 DKK. A lot of money in Poland, but Waclaw Rosicki explains that he cannot explain which service he provided for the money. – I cannot recall says he, who in the same year gave 26,000 kroner to his fellow student’s party in connection with the election for the European Parliament.
Photographer gave 110,000 in party support
The Polish freelance photographer Jerzy Kurzatkowski can neither remember what his sole proprietorship Studio 639 made for the 342,000 DKK that rolled in from Meld in 2014. – I really cannot remember it. It is some years ago, he says, although admitting that it as an unusually large order for his small company. The average pay in Poland is 73,000 DKK per year – but in spite of this Jerzy Kurzatkowski managed to donate 110,000 DKK in party support for Solidarna Polska. Jerzy Kurzatkowski has worked for the party as a freelancer for several years, and he is also a private friend of Messerschmidt’s predecessor as Meld chairman. Also Jacek Wlosowich is unable to explain what the EU money was spent on. – I am not competent to give an objective answer, he says.
Bogus conferences in Copenhagen, Kolding, and Krakow
On several occasions, members of the scandal-ridden Meld foundation have dropped massive bills for national party meetings into the EU taxpayers’ lap – including Danish tax payers. Among other things, Ekstra Bladet has revealed that the Danish People’s Party has received vast amounts from Meld for their Summer group meetings in the towns of Kolding and Skagen, and that Morten Messerschmidt transformed a discussion meeting in Copenhagen into a Meld conference. Ekstra Bladet can now uncover that the foundation also sent 40,000 euros, which corresponds to 300,000 DKK, to a national party congress in Poland.
It appears from internal Meld papers, which Ekstra Bladet is in the possession of, that on 30 June 2013, Meld supported a “climate conference” in the Polish city of Krakow. Strangely enough it is completely impossible to find information about this congress in the heart of one of Poland’s most well-known cities. This despite the fact that there should have been 800 participants. On the other hand, it is easy to find out that the Meld party Solidarna Polska held its first party congress the year after its formation at the very same weekend as the Meld conference. But now Tadeusz Cymanski, then member of Meld and parliament member for Solidarna Polska, that the two events were one and the same.
Ekstra Bladet cooperates with Newsweek in Poland, which has been through the party’s accounts, and it is impossible to trace that the party has paid for the conference. Meld has done so. Newsweek has paid a visit to the city’s largest cinema, Kino Centrum Kijów, which housed the conference. Here, they know nothing of a climate conference; on the other hand, they confirm the party conference.
Swindled auditors with false information
The Polish senator Jacek Wlosowicz, at the time president of Meld, confirms that Meld has paid for the entire conference, and he explains that there was a climate banner, and three of the speakers at the conference had mentioned climate in their speeches. I was personally responsible for running the conference, and the auditors have sanctioned it, he explains to the Polish Newsweek. The scandal-ridden foundation, however, had deliberately concealed the right context for accountancy firm Ernst & Young, and thus for the EU Parliament. This appears from internal documents in which it is maintained that it was an open climate meeting with 800 participants for which Meld was solely responsible. Wouter Wolfs, associate professor at University of Leuven in Belgium, conducts research on the use of EU support by European parties, and he deems to Ekstra Bladet, that this might be misuse of EU funds.
– If Meld has paid for the entire event or the main part of it, and their involvement is limited to some banners and posters, then the EU funds were misused, he says.
Poles made a Messerschmidt
After Ekstra Bladet begn to take interest in the case, Solidarna Polska has removed it’s Youtube videos from the conterence. As Ekstra Bladet has previously revealed, Meld also paid in 2013, when Borgerligt Netværk [Centre-right network] held a discussion meeting in Copenhagen. Keynote speaker Ole Birk Olesen, however, had no idea that he was a speaker at a Meld conference. Besides, in connection with the party’s Summer group meetings in 2014 and 2015, the Danish People’s Party has received money from Meld, which it is presently in the process of repaying. One of the meetings was held in Kolding.
NOVEMBER 23: EU TREASURY SYSTEMATICALLY MILKED BY SCANDAL-RIDDEN FOUNDATION FORMER LITHUANIAN PRESIDENT ENTANGLED WITH MELD CASE: DPP’s vote catcher signed financial statements in which national party congress in Lithuania was turned into Euro conference 70,000 fanthom ball pens, fictitious conferences in Denmark and Poland, holiday trips to political friends, pro forma boards, and exceptionally messy accounting. These are just a few of the revelations of Morten Messerschmidt’s (DPP) scandal-ridden EU foundation Meld, Ekstra Bladet has brought to you in recent months.
Today, Ekstra Bladet can reveal that the scandal-ridden foundation has ostensibly systematically camouflaged internal meetings of national parties as Meld conferences paid by the EU. Also in Lithuania Meld has spent support funds on EU conferences and other activities, of which it is impossible to find any trace. Ekstra Bladet can now reveal this on cooperation with the Lithuanian medium 15min.lt.
On the board with Messerchmidt
As has been the case with DPP’s summer meetings in Denmark and a party conference in Poland, Messerschmidt’s Meld friends in the Lithuanian party “Law and Order” also held a national party congress in the one instance, while a Meld supported seminar with 95 participants has apparently vanished into the blue skies of Vilnius. The case hurts two of Lithuania’s most famous politicians. The former president of the country, Rolandas Paksas, and former mayor of the Capital Vilnius, Juozas Imbrasas. The two of them were on the board og the foundations Meld and Feld together with Morten Messerschmidt and Søren Espersen, deputy chairman of DPP. This is evident from documents which Ekstra Bladet has got access to.
It does not appear from the documents, however, how much the European taxpayers have paid for instance for an EU conference in February 2014 and a seminar in July 2014 on Lithuania’s EU membership. Both should have been held in Vilnius.
Like in Denmark and Poland
As previously described, Meld has several times, in contrast with the rules, spent 200,000 DKK on DPP summer group meetings and approx. 300,000 on a Polish party congress. Both items were camouflaged in the accounts as EU conferences. The events in Lithuania took place in 2014, while Morten Messerschmidt was vice president of Meld. In the same year, he was elected chairman – and the expenses in Lithuania were booked in the first financial statements that the DPP vote-catcher presented in the spring of 2015. This happened a few months after he and his party colleague Anders Vistisen had actually taken over the full control of Meld.
Ekstra Bladet has tried to get a comment from Morten Messerschmidt and Anders Vistisen, but in vain. As the last treasurer of Meld, Anders Vistisen is the only person who has access to the organisation’s bookkeeping and files. But he refuses to shed light on the dubious affairs.
Memory like in Denmark and Poland: I cannot remember what happened yesterday
The scandal-ridden Meld foundation has made the headlines in Denmark and in Poland, and now the turn has come to Lithuania. Documents that Meld has submitted to the EU Parliament, when Morten Messerschmidt was the chairman of Meld, show that both a conference and a seminar was held with 95 participants, but neither Ekstra Bladet nor our Lithuanian cooperation medium 15min.lt can find any trace of them. Former president of Lithuiania and EU parliamentarian Rolandas Paksas was the chairman of the Law and Order party, when on 15 and 17 February 2014, he should have been the organizer of a two-day Meld conference in Vilnius on the euro. An unusual choice of date, since 15 February is a national holiday marking the Country’s independence. On 15 February the Law and Order party in actual fact held an internal party congress in Vilnius. On the other hand, there are no traces of Meld’s euro conference – neither on the Internet nor on the Law and Order party’s official website.
– I honestly cannot remember 2014. I cannot remember what happened yesterday, says Paksas to 15min. lt.
One week of silence
Rolandas Paksas is a former vice president of Meld and still incumbent in the EU Parliament representing his party. A week ago, he promised that his assistants in Brussels and Lithuania would answer a number of questions presented in writing. But despite several reminders, he has neither accounted for agenda, list of participants nor has he presented any other documentation that the EU conference was in actual fact not a national party congress, which in violation of the EU rules was financed by the EU. Thus the same trick as the one used in Denmark and Poland. Juozas Imbrasas, who presently holds a seat in the Lithuanian parliament, is also incapable of shedding a light on the EU seminar for 95 participants, which allegedly was held on 11 July 2014, shortly after the EP election.
Not my own pockets
Juozas Imbrasas was a board member of Feld and a member of the EU Parliament until the 2014 election. Neither Ekstra Bladet nor 15min.lt have been able to find any trace of the event – and the former mayor of Vilnius is neither able to shed light over the event for which he, according to internal Meld documents has been solely responsible. – But I have not put any money in my own pocket. I occupied young people, so that they could become interested in politics, be active and work in the interest of Lithuania, he says, before interrupting the interview with a promise of returning. He has not done so, however. There are no traces of Meld’s euro conference – neither on the Internet nor on the Law and Order party’s official website.
DECEMBER 2: MESSERSCHMIDT’s HENCHMAN HANDSOMELY REWARDED MILKED 3.2 MILLION OFF SCANDAL-RIDDEN FOUNDATION 35 percent of the EU support for Meld and Feld went to just one person: The man with the golden handshake received extra bonus and remuneration on top of his sky-high salary A yearly salary the size of a Prime Minister and a golden handshake of 1.3 million DKK was not sufficient for the employee, who, according to Morten Messerchmidt (DPP), sanctioned the disputed expenses in the party alliance Meld and the associated scandal-ridden Feld foundation. He also received an extra bonus and payments of 430,000 DKK in the year that Morten Messerschmidt was elected Meld chairman.
This is evident from documents from the European Parliament, which Ekstra Bladet has got access to. The taxpayer financed cash box thus got well and truly emptied, before the “man with the golden handshake” – German-Argentinian Juan Manuel Ghersinich – said goodbye to the two organisations and hello to a new EU paid job with a permanent desk at the office of the Danish People’s Party in the European Parliament.
Received every third krone
In actual fact, no less than 35 percent of the total Meld expenses in the financial statements for 2014 went into Ghersinich’s bank account. The financial statement was signed and submitted by Morten Messerschmidt in April last year. Juan Manuel Ghersininch was formally general secretary for Meld og Feld, but hired on a socalled adviser contract until January last year. Hereinafter, on the recommendation of Morten Messerschmidt, he became adviser in the EU-critical ECR group, among others to DPP’s new group chairman, Anders Vistisen. According to documents from the General Secretariat of the European Parliament, Ghersinich received a total payment of nearly 3.2 million DKK from Meld and Feld. The entire amount was booked in the first Meld financial statements for which Morten Messerschmidt was responsible.
In 2014, according to Morten Messerschmidt, Meld and Feld altogether received EU support in the amount of 9.2 million DKK. Seen in relation to the turnover of Meld and Feld, the labour cost for the administrative leader is a heavy burden.
The man who approved all
Ghersinich is at many levels a key figure in Feld and Feld. When Morten Messerschmidt and his political allies in for instance Poland and Lithuania defend the controversial use of EU funds, they unanimously state that all the events were approved in advance by the Meld secretariat in Bruxelles. But if you compare the documents from the European Parliament and Ghersinichs employent contract with the annual accounts, it appears that Meld had only one person employed in the secretariat.
Juan Manuel Ghersinich, namely, who alone in 2014 received four month’s extra pay as ell as some undefined fees for doing his job. A look into the accounts also shows that payroll costs at Meld and Feld exploded exactly in 2014 – the year in which Morten Messerschmidt was elected chairman. It was otherwise a quiet year in the office, since the majority of MEP’s from the two organisations were forced to leave after the elections in May that year.