Oslo Municipality's Director of Corporate Purchasing, Gunnar Wedde, has been exposed as a participant in extensive gambling at an illegal poker club.
In his professional role, Wedde has the power to ban companies that break employment laws. He is known for his work battling against unreported employment.
In March this year, 100 police officers participated in an action against the poker community in downtown Oslo. Five clubs were closed immediately and five people were arrested. At one of these clubs, Norwegian Poker Team (NPT), Gunnar Wedde was a regular.
Uncovered by Aftenposten
According to Aftenposten, one of Norway's largest newspapers, Wedde has also participated in a number of illegal poker tournaments. A total of at least one million NOK has been won in the tournaments which Wedde has participated in.
The newspaper found a username identical to Wedde's surname on a secret Facebook page associated with the poker club. His name also appeared several times in a Twitter feed together with messages about the progress of tournaments and cash games in the club.
According to the investigation by Aftenposten, Wedde was registered as a participant in 31 poker tournaments from May 2016 to August 2017. According to NPT's own information, Wedde has paid a total of 24 850 NOK, and has also participated in cash games, where people play for real money. The amount of cash he has entered in total is not known, but according to Aftenposten, the minimum bet to play is 1000 NOK.
When contacted by Aftenposten for a comment, Wedde defended himself. He wrote in an email that "This has no impact on how I carry out my work or my role in the organisation", arguing that as this is something he has been doing in this spare time, it is not relevant.
Breaking the law
In Norway, poker tournaments played for real money are illegal, in accordance with the Lottery Act. In addition to this, the club did not have a catering license, despite serving both alcohol and food. They were also operating on illegal premises.
When the police stormed the club in March, large sums of cash were seized. A debt-list of players was also discovered.
Based on information posted by NPT on the secret Facebook group and Twitter, the club has received at least 30 million NOK from over 2000 players in start-up fees alone, Aftenposten reports. This is counting from tournaments back in 2015 until the club's closure this year.
Response from Oslo Municipality
"Here, an awake and thorough press has revealed something that the internal investigations had not caught on to", Ola Kvisgaard, chairman of the Oslo City Council of Commons, says to Aftenposten.
A weakened authority
Wedde's poker playing will be the theme for both the Bureau Department for Finance and the Control Committee, who require a statement from city councillor Robert Steen.
"The big issue is whether this issue weakens the reputation of Oslo...and if Wedde's authority is weakened", says Kvisgaard.
"We must get [Steen's] assessment of the case and be informed as to whether he as an employer intends to follow up on this", he continues.
Code of ethics
Paragraph two of the Oslo Municipality's Code of Ethics states: "The employees of the City of Oslo will work for the community's best interests in accordance with laws, regulations, the municipality's values and political decisions. The municipality's employees shall perform their duties and act in a way that does not harm the municipality's reputation and trust in population."
With regard to the poker games occurring outside of office hours, Kvisgaard feels that there is a higher expectation of those who have prominent roles in the fight against unreported employment. "one should interpret the rules strictly, even though senior executives also have free time and privacy," he explains.
Outside working hours
City council president Ivar Johansen believes the situation to be very serious. "[Wedde], in his position as head of the department, is working against economic crime and tax evasion in industries that receive municipal assignments."
According to Johansen, "The Code of Ethics does not stop once office hours are over. It applies the entire day, especially for those in leadership".
Eventually, Wedde admitted fault. He said to Aftenposten, "I understand that this is very unfortunate, and I am terribly sorry. This issue is very important to me, I have learned from this and it will not happen again."
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