The accused are mostly bikers and gang members connected to the cannabis trade in Christiania
Copenhagen cops have made a major cannabis bust (photo: Alkivar)
November 4th, 2015 6:07 pm| by Ray W
Ten men and one woman, who stand accused of being part of an organised drug trafficking ring that smuggled and sold up to 900 kg of cannabis, were today remanded in custody at a city court in Copenhagen.
One of the suspects has also been charged with possession of a semi-automatic pistol and ammunition.
Ten of the suspects have pleaded not guilty, while one has admitted to having 18 kilos of cannabis in his possession and violating the Arms Act.
Today’s hearing was held behind closed doors and the names of the accused have been withheld.
However, police said that members of the Hells Angels and the gang No Surrender are among those arrested.
The arrests are the result of the actions of a special police gang unit, Task Force Øst, which hit 35 sites in the metropolitan area on Tuesday, seizing half a million kroner, 35 kg of cannabis and a gun with ammunition.
Lars Barfoed is the latest high-profile political figure to transition to the private sector
These university lecture halls are getting bigger every year
October 9th, 2015 7:00 pm| by Phillip Tees
Politicians are getting younger and some have many working years ahead of them after leaving office. In the 1950s the average age of an MP was over 50. At the last election this had fallen to just 44. Bertel Haarder is the longest serving MP currently in office, but his 35 years of service was exceeded by almost 30 members of Folketinget in the 19th and 20th centuries.
Life after politics
As Anders Fogh Rasmussen has shown by his appointment at NATO and Helle Thorning-Schmidt could confirm if she is successful in her UN bid, even reaching the top of Danish politics needn’t be the pinnacle of a Danish politician’s career.
But what if you can’t get that top job in international politics? Well, there’s always the private sector. At least that’s what we could be led to believe from recent career moves by some of Denmark’s political heavy-hitters.
At the beginning of this month Lars Barfoed became the latest heavyweight in Danish politics to enter the private sector. After 14 years at Christiansborg, the former leader of the Konservative party failed to get re-elected in this year’s general election, and on October 1 he started work as the head of public affairs and lobbying at the PR and communications bureau Communiqué.
Last year another former Konservative leader Lene Espersen, the former foreign minister, walked away from politics to take a job as head of the architects union Danske Ark, while Karen Hækkerup said goodbye to her cabinet position as justice minister to head the agricultural interest organisation Landbrug og Fødevarer.
Becoming a career path?
it is up for discussion whether these transitions are part of a trend towards using political careers as springboards to lucrative private work or whether they are simply a combination of opportunism and pragmatism.
Peter Munk Christiansen, a professor at the department of political science at Aarhus University, doesn’t necessarily see the recent traffic from the political sphere to the private sector as something altogether indicative of a new career pattern.
“I wouldn’t say it’s becoming a career path to move from politics to interest organisations because there are relatively few cases,” he said.
“Probably one reason for this is that the Danish Parliament isn’t very elitist. If it was a place that attracted the top talent in the country, there might be more cases of the private sector recruiting from there.”
More common abroad
Indeed, according to Christiansen, the phenomenon is much more common in other countries, such as in the UK and the US. In Denmark, the transition can be the result of changing political fortunes.
“For example, in the case of Karen Hækkerup, she was justice minister in a government that didn’t have much chance of staying in power,” continued Christiansen.
“She may have anticipated that the government wasn’t going to survive the next election and that there wouldn’t be a place for her in the new government. So when she got the offer, it seemed like the best option for her.”
Espersen was also facing pressure from within her party and falling support in the opinion polls when she made the switch, while Barfoed had received his marching orders from the voters.
Don’t have pick of jobs
According to Henrik Ørholst, a business commentator and editor of the executive newsletter VL Nyt, politicians don’t have the pick of any private sector job on account of their political past.
“Politicians are most attractive to interest organisations and for jobs in public affairs. They are generally less suited to jobs in pure business,” he said.
“For example, Lars Barfoed has started work in public affairs. It may be a good company, but it’s not a big company.”
And Ørholst believes there is a reason for this, and it’s based on the comparative skills of politicians and business leaders.
“It is very different how you work in politics and how you work in business,” he said
“In politics it’s about negotiation and compromise, whereas in business it’s about taking decisions and carrying them out. In business if an employee isn’t performing you can fire them, but in politics you need to work for the voters.”
According to Ørholst, for those who successfully bridge the gap, there can be significant benefits.
“Even a minister’s salary can’t compete with a CEO at one of the biggest companies. It could be as much as five times the amount,” he said.
“And there are other advantages to life in the private sector, such as your private life being more private – you can live a bit more under the surface. You can be the CEO of a major company without anyone really knowing your name.”
Competences and contacts
Nevertheless, it’s easy to see how politicians can be attracted to the private sector, and especially interest organisations that among other things seek to influence the legislative process. Politicians, especially those who have served as ministers, have first-hand experience of the inner workings of government and a unique network of contacts.
Christiansen points out that there is no code of conduct preventing those who have served as MPs or in government from using their insights and connections after they leave office. However, he is not particularly concerned about the risk of abuse.
“There are no ethical rules or guidelines governing ex-politicians in their dealings. But there can be legal rules: for example, prohibiting the use of insider information,” he said.
“I don’t think it’s problematic that politicians move to interest organisations, but I think it’s worthwhile noticing this traffic. The reason that it is less problematic in Denmark is that we have a very strong co-operative tradition and a tradition of very strong interest groups that are well known. So you don’t end up with politicians in strange disguises representing groups that aren’t known. This is different, for example, compared to the revolving doors of the EU.”
Back and Forth
- Traditionally a lot of people came to politics from organisations in the labour movement
– Malou Aamund worked at IBM, became a member of parliament, first for Liberal Alliance then for Venstre, before leaving politics to become a sales director at Microsoft
– Jørn Neergaard Larsen, the current employment minister, was previously the head of the employers’ organisation Dansk Arbejdsgiverforening
– Gitte Seeberg, the secretary general of the WWF in Denmark, was an MP for Konservative and Liberal Alliance
– Members of Parliament have a basic salary of 624,887 kroner per year and a tax-free expenses allowance of 60,984 kroner per year
– Most ministers are paid 1,171,318 kroner per year, while some cabinet posts come with a salary of 1,288,450 kroner per year
– The prime minister is paid 1,464,148 kroner per year
– Enhedslisten candidate Per Clausen last October told DR that perhaps there should be a quarantine period between former politicians stepping down and becoming lobbyists.
– “It’s a problem if the public perceive being a politician as being a part of a career where you can climb to be the chief lobbyist in an interest organisation,” he said.
– Mads Christian Ebensen, a lecturer at the University of Copenhagen, shared Clausen’s concern, predicting the number of MP-cum-lobbyists would continue to grow.
Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt has warned that the Right-wing opposition will cut the country’s prized cradle-to-grave welfare system, in a last-minute bid to win over undecided voters ahead of an election that is still too close to call.
The latest poll of polls by Berlingske newspaper gave the Right-wing opposition parties a slender 1.4 percentage point, or single seat, lead over the Social Democrat-led government and its allies, ahead of Thursday’s poll.
“Throughout the election campaign, the Right-wing parties have refused to answer how and [by] how much they will cut social assistance, and there is also talk of cutting unemployment benefit and disability pensions,” Ms Thorning-Schmidt warned in her final press conference of the campaign on Wednesday morning.
Kasper Hansen, a politics professor at the University of Copenhagen, said that the election would be won by the party that manages to control the agenda on the final day.
“If they are able to switch the agenda on to the welfare issue, they are going win the election,” he said. “It’s so close, it’s not possible to call in any way, so even a few thousand voters will be decisive.
“The Social Democrats will keep talking about welfare, while the Right-wing parties will talk about immigration.”
Ms Thorning-Schmidt, who is married to Stephen Kinnock MP, the son of the former Labour leader Lord Kinnock, has over the past two years executed an impressive political turn-around. She has demolished a 27.8 percentage point lead held by the Right-wing parties by taking credit for Denmark’s economic recovery, ruthlessly exploiting an expenses scandal besetting her rival Lars Loekke Rasmussen, and moving sharply to the right on immigration.
She set the tone for the election campaign in her New Year’s speech, when she declared: “If you come to Denmark, you must of course work. You must learn the Danish language, and you must meet and mix with Danish colleagues.”
The government then brought in tighter immigration rules, making it harder to claim asylum and easier to send refugees back if the situation in their home countries improves.
Then when the campaign began, the slogan “If you come to Denmark, you must work” was plastered over buses around the country, since when Ms Thorning-Schmidt’s own rhetoric has become ever tougher.
In the campaign, both sides have pledged to reduce “welfare tourism,” deny unemployed migrants permanent residence, and limit family reunion. The shift has agonised the Social Democrats’ allies.
“I think that the debate about refugees and asylum seekers during this election has been downright shameful,” argued Uffe Elbæk from The Alternative, a new green party, in a debate on Tuesday night.
The opposition have responded by moving even further to the right, with the Conservative Party rolling out “Stop Nazi Islamism” posters, and the Liberal Party demanding “an immediate halt” to a “nearly explosive influx” of asylum seekers.
On Wednesday, the party released an advertisement quoting Ms Thorning-Schmidt saying “I am a European by heart”. “Tomorrow we are voting on the EU,” the party’s lead MEP Morten Messerschmidt said, as he tweeted out the advert.
Ian Manners, a professor at the University of Copenhagen, told the Telegraph that the party would exact an “enormous price” from the largely pro-EU Liberal Party to join a government coalition.
“They would want a referendum on Europe, which I don’t think the Liberals could accept,” he said. “I suspect that if they were to be tied in, they would make treaty revision part of their agreement.”
It seems to be working: the latest poll of polls gives the Danish People’s Party 17.8 per cent of the vote, up from 12.3 per cent in 2011.
Voting will close on Thursday at 8pm Danish time, with the first exit poll released at the same time. The preliminary count is likely to be completed around midnight.