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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Prodigal son appeals jail term

Bjarte Baasland, a bishop’s son who was convicted of fraud to cover huge gambling losses, was appealing his jail term in an Oslo court on Monday. His defense attorney, John Christian Elden, hoped to convince the court that Baasland’s gambling mania was the result of a medical condition.

Newspaper VG wrote that Baasland recently has been diagnosed with velo-cardio-facial syndrome at Aker hospital in Oslo. Difficulty with numbers is one of the symptoms of the genetic illness.

Last October Baasland was sentenced to a four-year prison term for fraud. He was also ordered to repay NOK 26.7 million to Cecilie Nustad, a wealthy former friend of the family. According to his own admission he gambled a total of NOK 66 million (USD 11 million) on the internet in 2005 – 2008, using money he’d obtained from family acquaintances who thought they were investing in his business start-up.

When his case finally got to court, he made a full confession. Elden told newspaper Aftenposten that the appeal is over the length of his client’s sentence and not his guilt.

Bjarte Baasland came to the attention of the media in 2008 and his actions have had a great impact on his family. His mother, Borghild Baasland, has been declared bankrupt and also faces charges of fraudulently obtaining NOK 5.5 million in an effort to bail out her son. His father, Ernst Baasland, felt obliged to resign as bishop, even though he claimed he wasn’t aware of his son’s gambling. In its original judgement the court questioned whether the younger Baasland himself was fully aware of the seriousness of his offense.

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