Westerdals relieved after criminal probe was dropped

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Officials at the Oslo-based Westerdals Schools of Communications could take off on summer holidays with a sense of relief, after the Norwegian police dropped a criminal investigation into whether the school illegally received unwarranted state funding. The school earlier settled a long-running conflict with the state, after agreeing to pay back NOK 42 million in state funding to which it was not entitled.

“This means that we can put this case behind us now,” Westerdals’ rector, Tine B Widerøe, told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN). “It’s been a burden for the school and our employees to have this hanging over us.”

The trouble began after DN reported in the fall of 2015 how the private school’s former owners, who included members of Norway’s wealthy Løvenskiold family, had transferred NOK 100 million of the school’s revenues to a parent company, despite regulations against taking out dividends. DN revealed how the school also had overcharged students, run a film- and TV program that lacked authorization and accepted state support based on faulty student registration.

The state ended up demanding return of NOK 85 million but settled last month for NOK 42 million. The school also settled reimbursement claims by nearly 800 students but still faces claims from 500 others. The school was ultimately sold in March of this year by the Løvenskiolds’ Anthon B Nilsen investment firm, to Høyskolen Kristiania, another private college in Oslo.

After more than a year of investigating, the state’s white collar crime unit Økokrim has concluded it will not press charges. Now school officials and its students look forward to start the new school year this fall with a clean slate. Norway’s Ministry of Education has admitted that it did not do a good enough job of monitoring its support for the private school.

newsinenglish.no staff