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HomeWORLD NEWSMinister of the Center Party Compelled to Resign

Minister of the Center Party Compelled to Resign

Ola Borten Moe, vice leader of the Center Party and a government minister, has been one of Norway’s most controversial legislators and government officials for decades. He was forced to resign on Friday after admitting to violating both government regulations and state law, making him the most recent minister to be caught in a significant conflict of interest.

Moe’s errors and lack of sound judgment made it impossible for him to continue in his position as Norway’s minister of research and higher education, despite his desire to “clean up” after himself. As word spread of what he described as “terribly wrong” personal investment decisions and his failure to evaluate them, he had no choice but to resign.

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Moe stated at the hurriedly called press conference, “I thought I could salvage the situation, but after today’s response, I realize it’s impossible.” “This became clear to me, my party leader, and the prime minister as the day progressed.” He indicated that he spoke with Center Party leader Trygve Slagsvold Vedum, who is also Norway’s finance minister, but not with Prime Minister Jonas Gahr Stre directly, only with Stre’s office.

Stre later characterized Moe’s conflicts of interest as “extremely serious” and emphasized that Norwegians’ trust in their government is essential. The effects of this case on public confidence in him and the government are inconsistent with his continued membership in the government. It was concluded that he should resign as minister. This is a decision that I support.”

Financial news service E24 reported earlier on Friday that Moe, who most recently served as Norway’s minister for research and higher education, attended a government meeting in January involving its NOK 2.6 billion contract with ammunition manufacturer Nammo.

This contract represented Norway’s largest-ever investment in ammunition for its own defense, is part of the state’s military assistance initiative for Ukraine, and garnered widespread attention. The contract was announced in January by the Center Party’s Finance Minister Vedum and Defense Minister Bjrn Arild Gram.

A week before the government meeting on the contract, Moe of the Center Party paid more than NOK 400,000 for shares in Kongsberg Gruppen, a company with a significant interest in Nammo.

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Moe has investable funds: After serving as oil and energy minister in a previous Labor-Center administration, he labored and invested in the oil industry prior to the Center’s return to power in 2021.

As a member of the government, Moe has earned an annual salary of nearly NOK 1.6 million in addition to the various stock dividends that are currently accruing, not least from his stake in the offshore energy company Okea.

E24 also reported that Moe violated rules intended to prevent conflicts of interest by attending a March 30 meeting at which the government expanded its contract with Nammo. Moe has acknowledged additional stock purchases that violated government regulations within the past year. Among them are investments in fertilizer and chemical manufacturer Yara, in which the state also holds a substantial interest, and Sparebank 1 SMN.

“This is a very embarrassing and serious situation,” Moe acknowledged to the Norwegian state broadcaster NRK on Friday afternoon. “It calls into doubt my integrity as a government official.

This is a situation I would have preferred to avoid, and I sincerely apologize.” At his press conference, he attempted to explain his “intention and motivation” by claiming he was merely seeking “long-term” investments for his children.

Members of the government are expected to be extremely cautious with their personal investments and are prohibited from owning or trading shares that could undermine confidence in them, the government, or government ministries. The state economic crime unit, Kokrim, and the parliamentary disciplinary committee have both launched investigations into Moe’s investments.

On Friday, Moe also apologized and admitted an error to the newspaper Dagens Naeringsliv (DN). “Okea, a company in which it has always been known that I own a stake, has begun to generate dividends,” he told DN. I believed that placing them in large, well-known Norwegian industrial companies with multiple owners was a good method to accomplish this.

In addition, he maintained that the businesses in which he has invested do not operate in the fields for which he is now constitutionally responsible as minister of research and higher education. “It didn’t occur to me that the government makes decisions that affect these companies directly and indirectly,” he told DN. When asked if he had sought advice before purchasing shares, he responded, “No, but I certainly should have.”

Moe is the third minister in the current Labor-Center government to confess to having a conflict of interest in the past month. Anette Trettebergstuen and Tonje Brenna of the Labour Party have both gotten into trouble for appointing friends to various public boards. Trettebergstuen resigned as culture minister promptly because some of her appointments were paid positions. Brenna continues to serve as education minister despite a parliamentary investigation.

DN also reported recently that Moe appointed an “old acquaintance” to head the board of the Norwegian foreign policy institute NUPI late last year. Moe asserts that he has an external evaluation indicating that the appointment did not entail a conflict of interest, but he has refused to share it. The acting director of communications for Moe’s ministry described it as an “internal document” that is “normally” not available for public inspection.

While serving as a minister in the 2000s, he appeared with a bruised face, and he was part of a group of four Center Party men (including current Defense Minister Gram) who went on a hysterical weekend that resulted in sexual harassment charges against former Center Party leader Liv Signe Navarrete.

After a lengthy period of political infighting, one of the men sent Navarsete an obscene text message. Stre accepted Gram and Moe into his new minority coalition government after negotiating with Vedum (who had attempted to resolve the harassment dispute) and despite the fact that none of the men have ever admitted to sending the message.

The Center Party harassment issue resurfaced earlier this month when author and economist Helle Stensbak wrote in the newspaper Aftenposten that it still poses conflicts of interest because Gram, as defense minister, is handling ongoing allegations of sexual harassment in the military.

Stensbak also claimed that the incident diminished Moe and Gram’s honor and reputation. She wrote, “How can Gram deal with sexual harassment in the defense department when he failed to do so with his own gang?”

Others are questioning whether Moe is now culpable of insider trading in connection with his share purchases and what has been discussed in government meetings. Moe insisted he is not: “At the time I purchased shares, I did not have access to non-public information,” Moe said.

Hans F. Marthinussen, a professor of law, told DN that Norway’s white-collar crime agency will have no choice but to resolve the insider trading queries. Given the timeline provided, they should investigate insider trading. We cannot tolerate government employees who misuse confidential information, so we need clarification.”

Meanwhile, the research and academic communities are unlikely to mourn Moe. A recent survey revealed that only 1% of academics surveyed believe his Center Party is the most competent on education issues. Moe, who lacks an academic degree, wished to strip university committees in Norway of their authority.

He was at the center of Norway’s research council’s funding crisis and dismissed its board. Students dubbed him “persona non grata” due to his decision to begin charging full tuition to international students from outside Europe and his alleged inability to comprehend their difficulties.

This year, he pledged a “total makeover” of the education sector, slashed financing for major construction projects, and told university leaders, “The party’s over.” Additionally, he attempted to restrict the use of English and promote the use of Norwegian in teaching and research.

By Friday evening, Prime Minister Stre was under fire for his failure to respond to Moe’s admissions of rule- and law-breaking and take swifter action.

It prompted opposition politicians to criticize the government’s leadership even more. Sylvi Listhaug, leader of the Progress Party, asserted that this case erodes Stre’s authority as chief of government.

She added that it was “disappointing” that Moe, an “experienced government minister,” could make such an error. It is a serious instance of a minister who does not comprehend his role.”

Other party leaders from both the left and the right demanded Moe’s resignation by mid-afternoon. Ingrid Liland of the Green Party and Dag-Inge Ulstein of the Christian Democrats both demanded that Moe resign: “I’m sorry, but he has to go.” Ulstein stated, “The fact that a government minister would invest in weapons and ammunition stocks during a war is the worst possible scenario.” In his opinion, the conflict of interest issue was almost ancillary.

The matter is “extremely serious,” according to Lars Haltbrekken of the Socialist Left Party, so the disciplinary committee of the parliament must handle it. Not only is it astonishing that Moe broke the law, but he did so for his own financial gain.

Peter Frlich, chairman of the committee for the Conservatives, stated that the case would be investigated. Frlich stated, “Ola Borten Moe displayed extremely poor judgment in this instance.” “He has violated laws and rules designed to preserve the integrity of our democratic institutions.”

They must continue to serve alongside Moe for the remaining two years of his term. Moe stated that he would then abandon politics. It is anticipated that he will continue working on his Trndelag property and in the oil industry.

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