Several suspects with lengthy criminal records, including one who recently was released from prison after serving time in the huge NOKAS heist 11 years ago, were back under arrest this week. They were being held in custody after police staged major drug raids at various locations around southeastern Norway (Østlandet).
Police also seized large quantities of narcotics and cash in the dramatic raids, some of which were shown being carried out on Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK)’s national nightly newscast Dagsrevyen on Monday evening. They were carried out in Oslo and at several other locations, as teams of police accompanied by dogs and customs agents broke down doors and stormed into homes and apartments early Monday morning.
Specially trained dogs sniffed out both currency and drugs as the police cracked down on around 20 people suspected of being involved in drug trafficking. It wasn’t clear exactly how many were arrested, but NRK confirmed that among them was NOKAS robber Metkel Betew. He was involved in the commando-style robbery of a NOKAS currency depot in Stavanger during the Easter holidays of 2004, after which a police officer was shot and killed during an ensuing gunbattle on the city’s streets. The NOKAS heist ranks as the largest ever in Norway, with much of the NOK 57.4 million in cash stolen at the time still unaccounted for.
Supreme Court set him free
The 36-year-old Betew was sentenced to 16 years of Norway’s special custody known as forvaring, meant to protect the public from particularly dangerous criminals. After 10 years in prison, he was eligible for early release on probation last year and it was granted by Norway’s Supreme Court, which determined there was little danger he’d commit crimes again.
NRK could report Monday evening that just 295 days later, Betew was back in police custody, on serious narcotics charges. His defense attorney, Marius Dietrichson, told NRK that his client denies the new charges against him now. Betew, who has a total of six earlier convictions for aggravated and attempted robbery, two of them against money couriers, claims the charges against him are based on a mistake, according to Dietrichson, who had declared in court last year that his client had changed his ways after the NOKAS robbery.
Ex-Bandidos boss also in custody
Police said they expect to bring at least four suspects arrested in Monday’s raids into court for custody hearings on Wednesday. NRK reported that Lars Harnes, former head of the Bandidos motorcycle club in Oslo, is also under arrest in connection with Monday’s raids, but NRK reported he was secretly seized several weeks ago. Einar Aas, an inspector and head of the organized crime unit at the Oslo Police District, said it was “not exactly a coincidence” that Harnes was also arrested, adding that “we believe we have fended off serious violent crimes.”
Harnes, age 48, also has a long criminal record. He was sentenced to forvaring in 2006 but released from prison in 2013, when an appeals court ruled that he no longer represented the danger to the public that he had earlier. NRK reported that when he was arrested last month, he was in illegal possession of a loaded pistol equipped with a silencer. He was ordered held in remand custody for at least four weeks, while police continue their investigation.