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Juholt travel expenses under scrutiny

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Juholt travel expenses under scrutiny
10:31 CEST+02:00
Under-fire Social Democrat leader Håkan Juholt has come under further scrutiny over his expenses after revelations that he declined to repay some of a Riksdag travel grant despite having cut short an overseas trip in 2006.

Before a field trip to Belarus in 2006, Håkan Juholt was awarded a grant from the Riksdag for eleven days' travel and accommodation, including seven in the country.

But according to his own accounts the visit lasted only four days, according to a report in the Expressen daily.

The newspaper furthermore reported that, despite regulations requiring repayment of the difference, Juholt neglected to pay back the money.

The stated purpose of the trip was to meet with opposition politicians in the eastern European country.

"You have to pay back if you have received too much. But Håkan Juholt has not paid in anything for this trip," said Marianne Bjernbäck at the parliamentary administration (Riksdagsförvaltningen) to the newspaper.

Håkan Juholt received a total of 11,275 kronor ($1,690) for the trip.

In previous interviews, Juholt has said that his girlfriend accompanied him on the trip. If the two shared a hotel room then he is entitled to only half the cost of his accommodation.

This fact would mean that Juholt received excessive remuneration for the trip.

The embattled Social Democrat leader, who is facing a preliminary investigation into allegations of fraud regarding rent payments on his apartment in Stockholm, declined to answer Expressen's questions on the matter on Saturday.

Furthermore Juholt's press secretary informed the newspaper on Tuesday that they should not expect a response to the question of whether his girlfriend accompanied him to Belarus.

The prosecutor's office on Monday announced that Håkan Juholt would be investigated by the Swedish National Police Crimes Unit (Riksenheten för polismål) in connection with revelations that he has spent years pocketing accommodation reimbursements he wasn't entitled to.

When the details first emerged on Friday, Juholt immediately held a hastily arranged press conference in which he admitted to the situation and declared his intention to repay the money, which has been reported to be 160,000 kronor ($23,800).

Juholt furthermore repeated his assertion that he had not read the regulations thoroughly.

"I have erred in not studying the rules with regards to the residences of MPs. I apologise for that. I want to underline that I have not claimed too much remuneration deliberately."

Regardless of the outcome of the investigation, the revelations could have implications for his tax affairs, according to a report in the Aftonbladet daily.

According to the newspaper, Juholt sought and received tax deductions for double accommodation totalling 57,108 kronor for the assessment year 2009.

The declaration was however based on the erroneous compensation from the Riksdag. As the payment should in fact have been halved, the size of the deduction should also have been halved.

As the political storm continued to rage around the recently elected Social Democrat leader, the party hierarchy came out in his defence after a meeting on Monday evening.

"There was a very strong backing of the party leader in what is a difficult situation. There are no demands for any drastic measures, such as a time out or resignation - absolutely not," said Peter Weiderud, who sits on both the Social Democrats' executive committee and party committee.

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