The case against five people alleged to be behind one of Norway’s biggest acts of fraud – which saw NOK 89 million (around USD 16.4) taken from one of the country’s wealthiest women – began in Oslo on Wednesday.
The crime, known as the “Nordea case,” took place last summer when a woman and a man entered a Nordea bank branch at Tveita, Oslo, with the woman pretending to be one of the wealthiest people in Norway, Block Watne heriess Randi Nilsen. They were able to obtain authorization to have NOK 89 million delivered to another account using falsified ID documents, of which NOK 60 million (USD 11 million) was eventually sent in at least five smaller transfers to other accounts, including some overseas and two companies in Dubai. This sum remains missing.
Three of the accused are facing charges under Norwegian law’s so-called “Mafia paragraph” for their involvement in the organized crime group behind the fraud. One of them, a 49.year-old, admitted partial guilt but the other four have pleaded not guilty to the charges. The 49-year-old’s lawyer, Einar Grape, told newspaper Aftenposten that his client admitted taking part but claims that he did not know how large the amounts of money involved were or that an organized syndicate was behind the crime.
The bank employee who served the two customers is accused of complicity and is also in custody. They are alleged to have falsified the authorization needed to access the account and are also accused of transferring the money to the other accounts with the help of another Nordea employee. The employee began searching for the account of Randi Nilsen and her son some four months before withdrawals began being made.
The man who accompanied the woman to the Nordea branch has already confessed and been jailed for four years and 10 months after claiming that he was forced to take part. It is believed that prosecutors will hope for longer convictions for the remaining five. Prosecutors explained in court that they had evidence that the defendants used fraudulently registered mobile telephones to communicate with each other, with two of the telephones and one computer seized by police registered under a stolen identity. The minimum penalty for serious fraud in Norway is six years imprisonment, but being part of an organized crime syndicate carries with it a minimum 11-year sentence.
The fraud occurred during last summer, and was reported to the police on August 5, 2010. The woman who had posed as the account holder was arrested later that month after police released CCTV footage from the Tveita branch.
The case is planned to last until September 9.
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