Norway’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs (UD) promises to investigate the USD $100,000 prize awarded to Terje Rød-Larsen and his diplomat wife Mona Juul as quickly and thoroughly as possible.

United Nations envoy Terje Rød-Larsen insists that that there is no secrecy around the awards he and his wife received and that the funds were reported to the tax authorities. Norway’s Foreign Ministry seemed less convinced and vowed to dig up and present all the facts.

Norwegian Foreign Ministry press spokesman Karsten Klepsvik told Aftenposten Wednesday that there could be a mixing of private and public roles which could brand the cash prize as a professional ‘irregularity’.

“They have received a substantial sum of money in a sphere where they work for the state. In principle the money should be delivered to UD when it is a question of a sum of this size,” Klepsvik said.

Klepsvik rejected Rød-Larsen’s argument that the Ministry knew about the money since it had been declared to tax authorities.

“That is something between the individual and the tax authorities, about which UD receives no information. We can’t expect the tax authorities to tell us every time someone receives a prize,” Klepsvik said.

The Ministry was more than a bit surprised when Terje Rød-Larsen told state broadcaster NRK that the department had been fully informed of the award.

“No one in UD has known about these sums of money. When he publicly claims the opposite it begins to resemble the previous scandal he was involved in… When he says that the Norwegian dipolmats present at the awards ceremony in 1999 were informed about the money, that is completely incorrect,” a ministry source told Aftenposten.

Rød-Larsen resigned from a specially formed position as Minister of Planning for the Labor government in late 1996 after a series of revelations involving irregularities with stock options and tax declarations.

The Ministry now intends to concentrate its investigation on how closely Mona Juul was involved in the decision-making process which led to Norway contributing over NOK 10 (USD 1.17) million to the Peres Peace Center which awarded the prize.

Another potential danger for the couple is the question of whether they may be guilty of breaking the civil service law by accepting gifts that could, or were meant, to influence how they carry out their jobs.

Labor-law professor Henning Jakhelln considers an award given in recognition of past service is innocent enough and should not count as a potential influence on official duty. “Another question is whether it was wise in this case to accept such a gift,” Jakhelln said.

Rød-Larsen has been unavailable for the Norwegian media, with the exception of state broadcaster NRK. Mona Juul has only uttered “No comment” to recent media enquiries. Officials at the Peres center have also put journalists on a waiting list, but all spokesmen have been unavailable.

Besides insisting that UD were fully informed and brushing aside implications of irregularities, Rød-Larsen told NRK about what he has done with the prize money.

Rød-Larsen said that much of the money remains in a private account that he uses to fund peace work in the region. Rød-Larsen said that he has used it to continue working in the region during times when he was not employed to do so.

This article ran on April 30 in “Aftenposten”