Denmark's new government suffered its first serious setback yesterday when its prospective finance minister was forced to abandon his ambitions because of links with a member of a motorcycle gang renowned for violence and drug crime.
Henrik Sass Larsen, 43, had been personally selected for the finance minister's job by Helle Thorning-Schmidt, Denmark's first woman prime minister, whose leftist alliance swept to victory in a general election this month.
However, it emerged yesterday that Mr Larsen had failed to obtain security clearance because of his links with a member of the Bandidos, one of the notorious Nordic motorcycle gangs.
Yesterday a Danish court sentenced 15 members of another motorcycle gang to between three and 15 years in prison for six attempted murders committed during gang feuding in 2009.
Mr Larsen was linked with the Bandidos in July when the Danish tabloid newspaper BT published a photograph of him with one of the gang members.
The politician, a member of the Danish parliament for 11 years, told Denmark's TV2 television channel that as a result of the disclosures he would no longer run for the post of finance minister. "It is obvious that I have made a mistake," he said, adding that he had told Mrs Thorning-Schmidt that he would "not be available as a minister".
Mr Larsen said that he would also abandon his plans to become political spokesman for Mrs Thorning-Schmidt's Social Democrat parliamentary party. "I am going back to the benches and then I will have to work hard to make a comeback," he said. He made his announcement after Danish intelligence informed him that they were unable to give him security clearance because of his links with the Bandidos member.
Mr Larsen insisted that he had maintained a "very sporadic relationship" with the biker and had met him only once. He said the contact began when he responded to the biker's email about an official matter relating to his son, which was reported to have taken place in May. "I should have very clearly and quickly refused to have any contact with this person,"he said. "I can see that now, but I couldn't at the time."