A human rights organization that’s been charged with money laundering is demanding a public apology and threatening to sue the government of Norway and Norway’s economic crimes unit that’s investigating it, for NOK 6 billion (USD 779 million). Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that other backers of the group are also threatening to sue Norway for another NOK 16 billion.
The Global Network for Rights and Development (GNRD) and its president, Palestinian-Norwegian Loai Deeb, are under investigation regarding around NOK 1oo million that has flowed into the group from abroad. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported Wednesday that Norway’s economic crime unit Økokrim is also investigating the transfer of millions of kroner from GNRD to Deeb’s own bank accounts.
Investigators from Økokrim and the regional tax authority Skatt vest also want to know where the money that’s funding GNRD is coming from. DN reported that Deeb formerly worked as an airport security guard, a messenger and at an asylum center, and rarely reported annual income of more than NOK 200,000 until 2013, when tax files show his income soared to NOK 4.7 million. Newspaper Stavanger Aftenblad reported that he also has bought two homes in Sola, near Stavanger, for which he paid a total of NOK 12.3 million in cash.
That has also raised questions, as has Deeb being identified in documents related to his human rights work as a professor of international law at the University of Oslo (UiO). University officials told both DN and NRK on Wednesday that Deeb has never been registered as either a student or employee at the university and that he is not a professor at UiO. Both the rector and a university spokesman said it was “very unfortunate” when such claims are made and the university is used in such promotion.
NRK reported that Deeb and GNRD have fired back, claiming that the Norwegian police have “acted irresponsibly and that their actions can’t be excused.” GNRD claimed in a statement released in Arabic that the Norwegian authorities’ charges against GNRD violate international law. Deeb’s defense lawyer, Kjell Brygfjeld, has stated that Deeb denies the charges against him and that all transfers to Loai Deeb were conducted through the ordinary banking system and were income that’s been declared to Norwegian tax authorities.
Both the University of Tromsø and the University of Stavanger, meanwhile, have terminated cooperation agreements with GNRD because of the organization’s secret funding and unclear profile. Deeb also got in trouble with state officials in 2010 for unauthorized use of the name “The Scandinavian University” for an institution he claimed had 175 professors and planned to expand in Syria, Lebanon, Sudan and Dubai. It instead was found to have zero employees, was not listed in the tax register and operated from a house in Stavanger. The term “university” is protected in Norway and Deeb was threatened with police charges. Newspaper Aftenposten reported at the time that the “university” later was to be “moved” to the Middle East.