Archive for Norway
The first of 18 tax evasion cases filed against local Norwegian employees of the US Embassy in Oslo has resulted in a 36-day jail term. A former security guard at the embassy was sentenced for failing to make sure that the embassy withheld taxes on his behalf or that he paid what he owed himself. The US Embassy, like other embassies in Oslo, refuses to report local employees’ earnings or withhold taxes they owe, in line with other diplomatic privileges like avoiding taxes, not least employer taxes. The 34-year-old guard worked for the US Embassy from 2008 to 2012. Newspaper Aftenposten reported that during his job interview, he was told that the Americans never report or withhold local employees’ earnings to the tax authorities as a matter of principle. The 34-year-old was acquitted of tax evasion for the years 2008 and 2009 but convicted for the years from 2010. The judge in the case wrote that the defendant then presumed his earnings were taxable but “stuck his head in the sand.” That amounted to pre-meditated tax evasion, the judge determined. The former guard owed NOK 340,000 (around USD 56,000) but was only convicted for the NOK 180,000 he “forgot” to declare after the embassy tax case hit the news in late 2010.
A senior Norwegian diplomat says his country’s former ambassador to the United States was given a verbal lashing by Barack Obama’s chief of staff when the president was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2009. Morten Wetland said the ambassador, Wegger Stroemmen, was approached by Rahm Emanuel, now Chicago’s mayor, who accused Norway of “fawning” to the newly elected U.S. leader. Wetland, the Norwegian ambassador to the United Nations at the time, told The Associated Press he did not witness the dressing down but said there was an air of embarrassment in Washington that Obama had been given the award so early in his presidency. Stroemmen, now a senior official at the Foreign Ministry in Oslo, did not return calls from the AP and Norwegian Foreign Ministry spokesman Frode Andersen said his agency would have no comment on the matter.
Norway’s foreign ministry turned down their own US consul general’s call to end an “unjust and embarrassing” difference in what was paid to a male and a female member of staff at the consulate in Minnesota, it emerged in court on Thursday. Walter Mondale, a former Vice President who was Norway’s honorary consul in Minnesota between 2008 and 2010, told a court in St Paul that he had written a strongly-worded letter to the Norwegian authorities asking them to increase the woman’s salary. Ellen Ewald, 56, is suing the Norwegian embassy in Washington DC for a reported $3 million for gender discrimination, arguing that a younger, less qualified male colleague at the consulate was paid much higher wages. Ewald lived in Norway for twenty years before returning to the US and securing a job in 2008 at the Norwegian consulate in Minneapolis, according to Norwegian public broadcaster NRK. Armed with two masters degrees and fluent Norwegian, she started work as the consulate’s director for higher education at the same time as her younger co-worker took up his role as business development director. Ewald claims the consulate told her their jobs had equal billing. She was then astonished to learn that her colleague was earning $110,000 a year, while she was on a salary of $70,000 and had inferior health benefits. A spokesman for Norway’s foreign ministry, Svein Michelsen, said last month that Ewald’s case was baseless, noting that a judge had already dismissed six of her eight charges.
Embassy of Norway has denied allegation by the UCPN (Maoist) that Norway was funding anti-peace activities in Nepal. Issuing a press statement over allegation on the misuse of Norwegian funding to the South Asia Trust, the embassy said all Norwegian funding is transparent and made public on the embassy’s website and its partners are registered and have the approval of Nepal’s Social Welfare Council. “We want to be clear that we have no reason to believe that the embassy’s funding to the Himal South Asian magazine has been misused. However, any such allegations are serious, and requires necessary action from our side,” the statement quoted Norway’s Ambassador to Nepal, Kjell Tormod Pettersen as saying. The statement reiterated that Norway has been a firm, trusted supporter of Nepal’s peace process from the very beginning, and is committed to support the finalization of the new constitution. The statement comes in the wake of Maoist lawmaker Shakti Basnet demanding probe into South Asia Trust Fund during the parliament meeting on Thursday. Basnet, while addressing the meeting, claimed that the grant support provided by Norwegian government to the South Asia Trust was aimed at influencing and disturbing the peace process in Nepal. The Trust is headed by journalist Kanak Mani Dixit.
The U.S. Embassy has contacted the government and Progress Party after the new Ambassador to Norway revealed a lack of knowledge about Norwegian politics in a Congress hearing. Obama’s handpicked candidate for the position as the new Ambassador to Norway did not exactly pass his test with flying colours when he was questioned about Norway’s political situation during a Congress hearing earlier this week. “We have had conversations with the government and members of the Progress Party after what happened during the hearing in the Senate. We want to emphasize that the U.S. has an excellent relationship with the Norwegian government, including the Progress Party, a representative at the U.S. Embassy tells TV2. George James Tsunis, an American businessman, first described Prime Minister Erna Solberg as the president of Norway, before he repeated several of the common myths about the Progress Party. He was being questioned by Senator John McCain during a traditional hearing before the candidates are approved and appointed new Ambassadors. TV2 describes that the Embassy expressed regret over what they thought was an uncomfortable and unfortunate episode. The TV channel also reports that the phone calls were made by the Embassy earlier this week.
The next American ambassador to Norway may want to brush up on his history – and his current events – before he heads over to represent the United States. During a recent Senate hearing, George Tsunis, the man President Obama tapped for the top diplomatic spot, made several incorrect references to the country’s government, at one point even saying it had a president. It does not, Norway is a constitutional monarchy. Tsunis, 45, who claims to have a “strong interest in foreign and economic affairs,” is the CEO of Chartwell Hotels and has been a top Obama donor. He was able to raise $843,225 for the president’s 2012 re-election campaign. He also donated $300,000 to a left-leaning super PAC during that same election cycle. While Tsunis didn’t fare well in the question and answer part of the Senate hearing, he is still expected to be confirmed.
Brazilian mom says she and her daughter want to leave Norway because child welfare authorities allege the 3-year-old girl is not being fed in a “normal” way. Vitoria Alves Jesumary and her daughter Sofia sought refuge in the Brazilian embassy in Oslo last week and say they won’t leave until Norway guarantees they can return to Brazil unhindered. Child welfare officials became involved with the family during Jesumary’s divorce proceeding from her husband, a Norwegian of Chilean descent. The father says he also wants his ex-wife and daughter to be able to leave Norway. Francisco Chagas Catunda Resende, a spokesman for the embassy, said embassy staff believed it was in “the best interests of the child” that she and her mother be allowed to go back to Brazil.