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Monday, June 17, 2024

Corruption case inspires books, film

As Norway’s biggest narcotics and police corruption case ever entered its seventh week on Monday, not everyone in the courtroom is involved or mere spectators. The so-called “Jensen-Cappelen case” has inspired book publishers, filmmakers and TV production companies to try turning the drama into some form of entertainment.

Convicted hash dealer Gjermund Cappelen has been under pressure in court lately, as he continues to claim he had help from high-profile police officer Eirik Jensen. Their trial, the lengthiest in Norwegian history, continues to attract plenty of interest, also from authors, filmmakers and TV producers. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

“This is a very exciting case with exciting characters,” Nikolaj Frobenius, an author who’s working on a fictionalized TV series based on the trial, told newspaper Dagsavisen. He’s among those following the case closely.

“What I’m writing is inspired by the history of Gjermund Cappelen (who claims to have imported more than 16 tons of hash into Norway during the past 20 years) and Eirik Jensen (a former high-profile Oslo police officer who’s accused to aiding and abetting Cappelen and pocketing millions from Cappelen in the process),” Frobenius told Dagsavisen as early as last year. It was so exciting, though, that the project was put on ice pending the lengthy trial itself and all the startling testimony that’s being revealed every day.

Another author well-known author in Norway, Torgrim Eggen, is also following the case at the request of publishing firm Kagge. Eirik Jensen himself already released a book last year, before his trial started, but now Kagge reportedly is interested in a more objective, independent account of the alleged police corruption and courtroom drama.

Filmmaker Ulrik Imtiaz Rolfsen confirmed to Dagsavisen that he’s also moving forward with a possible film project about the case which has been generating reams of local media coverage on a daily basis. The trial is massive as well, with hundreds of people called to testify before it finally wraps up on June 15.

Eirik Jensen (right) in court with his defense attorney John Christian Elden. PHOTO: NRK screen grab

The case involves claims by Cappelen, who was arrested on serious drug-dealing charges in December 2013, that Jensen had contributed to his imports of hash in return for payment. Jensen was thus arrested in February 2014 and held until May 30 that year, charged with corruption. Those charges were later expanded to include drug dealing as well.

Cappelen implicated Jensen on the apparent motivation that he’d get a lighter prison sentence if he cooperated with authorities. Jensen flatly denies all of Cappelen’s charges, claims Cappelen was merely a police informant and that he (Jensen) never profited from Cappelen’s hash network. In a separate trial in the fall of 2015, six members of Cappelen’s hash network were convicted and sentenced to between five and 16 years in prison. Cappelen was found guilty of the possession and sale of 1.4 tons of hash but won’t be sentenced until his trial on the actual imports is concluded in conjunction with the charges against Jensen.

Hateful stares
The two have been exchanging hateful stares ever since the case began on January 9. Jensen has denied guilt on all of the most serious charges against him except a minor weapons violation. Cappelen pleaded guilty to exaggerated violation of narcotics laws but seeks what the Norwegians call a “rebate” on his eventual prison term.

Questions have been swirling, meanwhile, over why police in either Oslo or Bærum (where Cappelen lived) failed to crack down on Cappelen’s extensive drug dealing. Newspaper Aftenposten, for example, reported on Monday that Cappelen lived a lavish lifestyle with expensive cars, costly clothing and watches and extensive travel and family vacations that included hotel bills of NOK 182,000 at the luxurious Burj al Arab in Dubai. Cappelen also most always paid in cash and had no other visible means of support. He has admitted to only having held two part-time jobs in his life, when he was a teenager, and that he has never paid tax.

So how come the police didn’t stop his hash imports earlier, Aftenposten queried, and why didn’t tax authorities uncover or question his use of cash even on major purchases? Why didn’t Cappelen’s frequent trips to Amsterdam, Malaga and Copenhagen, all major drug hubs, ring any alarms? Neither police officials, who face a huge scandal, nor tax authorities will say, pending the outcome of the trial.

Questions of credibility, too
Some police claim they had suspicions that Cappelen must have had help from within the police who foiled colleagues’ attempts when they got too close to nabbing him. Jensen claims it wasn’t him, although he also has been challenged on his own heavy use of cash and a lifestyle seemingly out of line with a police officer’s salary.

Attorneys on both sides are attacking the credibility of both Cappelen and Jensen. After Jensen spent the first several weeks in the witness box, now it’s Cappelen’s turn, and questioning is tough from some of Norway’s most high-profile attorneys and prosecutors. Recent headlines have noted how the judge in the case has already expressed skepticism to Cappelen’s testimony, that a friend of Jensen’s beat up one of Cappelen’s customers, that Cappelen claims Jensen has hidden away the money he’s paid him (to the tune of NOK 8.5 million) and that one of Cappelen’s trusted partners helped remodel Jensen’s home. There’s also been a lot of attention paid to the cryptic text messages sent back and forth between Jensen and Cappelen that are believed to be written in code. Jensen testified, for example, that “fine weather and sunshine,” meant that police could close in on someone or that he was available, while Cappelen claimed it meant that it was safe to import hash.

Jensen maintains that Cappelen was simply his good police informant, and they got friendly over the years. Cappelen claims Jensen was actively assisting his drug trade, and getting paid for it. The trial will roll on for another four months. Berglund



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