COPENHAGEN (Reuters) – Legislator Morten Messerschmidt from the eurosceptic Danish People’s Party was given a suspended sentence on Friday of six months in prison on charges of document fraud and misuse of EU funds, a local court said.
The money, roughly 100,000 Danish crowns ($16,000), was meant to have been used to pay for information campaigns about the European Union, but was instead used for promoting Messerschmidt’s own party, the court said.
Messerschmidt has repeatedly denied the charges. His defence lawyer said the verdict would be appealed, according to the Danish newspaper BT.
Danish police opened their investigation after the European Commission’s anti-fraud watchdog in 2019 said that funds granted by the European Parliament to two pan-European political groups had been misused by their members.
The investigation by the Anti-Fraud Office (OLAF) was opened in 2015 on suspicion of fraud and irregularities by the right-wing group MELD and its associated foundation FELD, which received EU grants between 2012 and 2015 and are both now defunct.
MELD, the Movement for a Europe of Liberties and Democracy, was led by Messerschmidt from 2014-15, who, as its then president, approved some of the spending.
The judge said it was a suspended sentence, meaning that Messerschmidt will most likely not actually serve in prison.
The Danish People’s Party saw voter support more than halve at the last national election in 2019 to just under 9%.
($1 = 6.3382 Danish crowns)
(Reporting by Stine Jacobsen; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky)