State prosecutors have handed down indictments and filed claims for NOK 104 million (USD 12.2 million) against 13 people running the Lime grocery store chain. Investigators claim those running the chain are guilty of, among other things, human trafficking, organized crime, loan fraud and receiving stolen property.
“The core of the case is the effort to get cheap labour in the grocery stores,” prosecutor Geir Evanger told newspaper Aftenposten. “Otherwise it’s about making money in all kinds of ways.”
The indictment also involves alleged welfare fraud, tax evasion and money laundering, along with a long string of violations of tax and accounting regulations. The indictment is more than 50 pages long and viewed as one of the most wide-reaching cases against a criminal group in Norway ever.
The group was allegedly headed by a 38-year-old man, his family members and associates who are charged with bringing workers to Norway from Pakistan and forcing them to work long days at very little pay in the Lime stores, which are now shuttered. The stores, offices and homes of those involved were raided in September last year.
The two brothers allegedly leading the operation have denied guilt, according to defense lawyer John Christian Elden, who described evidence as “speculative.” The trial is due to begin in January.