Persson aide faces ‘lies’ investigation

Sweden's Justice Ombusdman is to investigate whether prime minister Göran Persson’s closest aide, Lars Danielsson, lied in his testimony about the Swedish government’s reaction to the South Asian tsunami.

“I have opened a file on the matter and decided to obtain transcripts from the Catastrophe Commission and the parliamentary committee on the constitution to determine whether I shall take this further,” ombudsman Nils-Olof Berggren told news agency TT.

Berggren’s probe follows Danielsson’s inconsistent evidence in the two official inquiries into the government’s handling of the disaster in South Asia, which claimed 543 Swedish lives.

Danielsson, Persson’s state secretary, told the Catastrophe Commission that he had contacted senior foreign ministry official Hans Dahlgren three times on 26th December 2004, the day of the tsunami. He later withdrew this claim, and in evidence to the Swedish parliament’s committee on the consitution he said he couldn’t remember talkingto anyone at the foreign ministry.

“I will look into whether he deliberately gave false information – whether he lied,” said Berggren.

It is not clear that Danielsson would have committed any offence if he were found to have lied, the ombudsman admitted.

“It would in any case be inappropriate for a senior civil servant being questioned by an investigatory committee, and particularly by the constitution committee, not to strive to tell the truth.”

Danielsson refused to comment directly on the development, but released a statement through a spokesperson that he welcomed the investigation and would hold off from commenting until it is complete.

If the ombudsman decides to continue the investigation after looking at the transcripts, Danielsson will be given the opportunity to make submissions. The decision on whether to proceed is likely to be made after the constitution committee has finished its investigation.

TT/The Local