A right-wing Danish lawmaker was acquitted on Wednesday of misusing European Union funds worth 98,835 kroner (13,286€) and falsifying documents.
A court in Copenhagen found Morten Messerschmidt, leader of the once powerful Danish People’s Party, not guilty of providing false information about holding an EU conference in 2015 to obtain EU funding. He maintained his innocence throughout the process.
“That means a lot. The case has cast long shadows on the Danish People’s Party and me as a politician for seven years and a few months,” Messerschmidt said after the verdict.
Danish prosecutors did not specify whether they would appeal.
Messerschmidt was working in the European Parliament at the time of the alleged crimes. In the 2014 EU Parliament elections, he received more personal votes than any other Danish candidate and staged his election campaign promising to combat alleged EU fraud.
Another Danish court sentenced Messerschmidt to a suspended sentence in the same case in August 2021. Since the judge had previously liked comments on Facebook criticizing Messerschmidt and the anti-immigration Danish People’s Party, Messerschmidt was brought back to justice due to judicial bias.
In its Wednesday ruling, Frederiksberg District Court stated that Messerschmidt, 42, had spent EU money on a conference in northern Denmark with his Movement for a Europe of Freedoms and Democracy (MELD), a pan-European party that was dissolved in 2015.
The case began after the European Union’s anti-fraud agency, OLAF, claimed in 2019 that funds granted by the European Parliament to two pan-European political groups were misused by its members.
However, the court acquitted Messerschmidt of using a forged document that he had presented as a contract between the Danish People’s Party and the hotel where the MELD conference was held. The contract was signed by the head of administration of the Danish People’s Party, who claimed to represent the hotel as the party was using the hotel at the same time as MELD.
During the trial, several senior members of the Danish People’s Party and other witnesses disagreed with Messerschmidt, who became chairman of the party earlier this year.
Internal quarrels led to the collapse of the populist party, which led Denmark’s crackdown on immigration two decades ago. The Scandinavian country has some of the strictest immigration laws in Europe due to the role of the Danish People’s Party.
In this year’s parliamentary elections on November 1, the party faced competition from new right-wing parties for nationalist voters. It received 2.6% of the votes, the worst result since it was founded in 1995.