A leading right-ring Danish politician has been convicted of fraudulently receiving funds from the European Union.
Morten Messerschmidt — the deputy leader of the right-wing populist Danish People’s Party (DF) — was accused of fraud and forgery during his term as an MEP in 2015.
Prosecutors had alleged that Messerschmidt had received 98,835 Danish kroner (over €13,200) after falsely using EU funds intended for European Parliament elections.
The former MEP was accused of lying about a DF conference in Skagen using forged documents, and of using the money to instead hold a summer meeting for the party.
Messerschmidt was found guilty by a court in Lyngby on Friday and was given a six month suspended prison sentence.
He will be jailed if he commits any criminal offences within the next two years, said judge Søren Holm Seerup.
The former MEP had denied any wrongdoing and has appealed the verdict.
The case against Messerschmidt has dragged on for years and is linked to allegations of fraud in the Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy (Meld), a former political alliance of Eurosceptic parties which dissolved in 2015.
The right-wing populist had been touted as the DF’s next leader, as the party struggles with crisis after losing a large portion of votes in Denmark’s last parliamentary elections in 2019.
The verdict could also damage the party’s image ahead of local elections in November.
The DF party Chairman Kristian Thulesen Dahl said on Facebook that Messerschmidt can “continue his political work” despite the court’s verdict.
“He is well within his rights to appeal – and the regional court can easily come to a different result than the district court,” Thulesen Dahl added.
Messerschmidt was an outspoken supporter of Denmark’s decision to revoke residency permits for Syrian refugees after Copenhagen deemed Damascus and the surrounding area safe.
Speaking to Euronews last month, Messerschmidt said the decision was a “judicial decision”.
Denmark was the first European country to begin revoking the permits, a decade since the fighting in Syria started. Humanitarian experts and other countries have strongly criticised the policy.