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Norway's foreign minister hit by husband's share trading revelations

The Local Norway
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Norway's foreign minister hit by husband's share trading revelations
Norway's foreign minister Annika Huitfeldt has admitted to inadvertently breaking the government's ethics code after discovering that her husband had traded in shares affected by government decisions. Photo: Syver Zachariassen / UD

Norway's foreign minister, Anniken Huitfeldt, admitted on Wednesday to inadvertently breaking ethics rules after discovering that her husband had traded shares in companies potentially affected by government actions.

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Huitfeldt told a press conference on Wednesday that she was "deeply sorry" for not doing enough to inform herself about her husband's activities. 

"I have not fulfilled my duty according to conflict of interest laws to obtain an overview of my husband's activities," she said. "There is reason to believe I have been in conflict of interest in several of the cases." 

According to the NTB newswire, her husband Ola Flem's investment company Flemo has traded shares in the arms manufacturer Kongsberg Gruppen, salmon producing companies Mowi, Grieg Seafood and Lerøy Seafood, the oil producer Vår Energi, the fertiliser company Yara and Aker Solutions, all of which are potentially affected by government decisions. 

Huitfeldt said that she had only become aware of the extent of her husband's investments after the similar conflict of interest cases which hit the government this summer. 

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Norway's former higher education minister, Ola Borten Moe, was in hot water in the summer after it emerged that he had bought shares in the arms manufacturer Kongsberg Gruppen, despite attending government meetings affecting some of its partly owned subsidiaries. 

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Huitfeldt notified the ministry of her husband's share purchases on August 6th, which then contacted the government's legal affairs department to determine whether she had breached the rules, which do allow relatives of ministers to deal in shares. 

"If the minister was not actually aware that the husband had ownership interests in a particular company, the disqualification would not have affected the contents of her decisions," the legal department concluded. 

"Decisions she has made in such cases, or helped prepare the basis for, will therefore continue to be valid despite her disqualification [on conflict of interest grounds]", the legal department wrote to the foreign ministry on August 28th.

Norway's financial crimes agency has said that there is no reason to suspect Flem of insider trading. 

Two other ministers in the government, Education Minister Tonje Brenna and former Culture Minister Annette Trettbergstuen have also faced ethics scandals, in their cases for approving acquaintances to positions. 

Brenna managed to hold on to her post after an inquiry, but Trettbergstuen resigned.  

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