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Thursday, August 18, 2022

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Scandal hits Danish premier again, after Covid fears sparked order to cull 17 million mink

Minks are seen in their cages in a mink farm in Jyllinge near Copenhagen October 24, 2012. Image, REUTERS, Fabian Bimmer.

Minks are seen in their cages in a mink farm in Jyllinge near Copenhagen October 24, 2012. Image, REUTERS, Fabian Bimmer.

Published Jul 1, 2022


Denmark's Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen and her administration were dealt another blow in a parliamentary probe into the nation's illegal cull of its mink population during the pandemic.

Frederiksen's order to kill all the 17 million mink was "objectively grossly misleading," but the premier didn't knowingly break the law, according to the findings published on Thursday by a cross-party investigation.

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Danes will head to the polls for the next general election no later than June 4 next year.

The parliament will now have to decide whether to pursue legal charges against the prime minister, while several officials at the very top of her administration could face disciplinary hearings.

"The prime minister's office has acted very reprehensibly in the process, which led to the gross misleading of mink farmers and the public," the report said. The probe did not investigate whether she acted in gross negligence.

Frederiksen announced in November 2020 that all farmed mink in Denmark, the largest such industry globally at the time, had to be slaughtered immediately over concerns that Covid-19 was mutating among the animals and transmitting to humans.

The agriculture minister resigned weeks later and Frederiksen has admitted that the order breached constitutional rights.

Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen holds a joint news conference with U.N. Secretary General Antonio Guterres in Copenhagen

The scandal somewhat dented her image after she won praise for the initial handling of the pandemic in the spring of 2020.

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The premier stands by the decision and has repeatedly underlined that she wasn't aware that the decision was illegal at the time.

Still, she acknowledged that mistakes were made.

Public trust in the one-party cabinet was further eroded after revelations during the parliamentary probe that Frederiksen and several key employees in her department had been automatically deleting all text messages from their devices.

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The investigation found that there are grounds for disciplinary actions against several senior officials, including the head of the police and one of Frederiksen's most important employees, the permanent secretary of the prime minister's office.