Wealthy man’s wife held for ransom

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The 68-year-old wife of one of Norway’s wealthiest but low-profile investors has been missing since October 31, when police believe she was abducted from the couple’s relatively modest home northeast of Oslo. Her family has since received threats and a demand for a ransom payment to be made in a crypto currency.

Police used this photo of Anne-Elisabeth Falkevik Hagen during their press conference about her disappearance on Wednesday. PHOTO: Politiet

“Our main theory has been all along that she was abducted from her home against her will,” Police Inspector Tommy Brøske said at a press conference Wednesday when the kidnapping of Anne-Elisabeth Falkevik Hagen finally was made public, 10 weeks after it occurred.

“We have advised the family not to pay the ransom,” Brøske said, adding that police believe the abduction was “economically motivated.” Newspaper VG reported that those behind Hagen’s disappearance have demanded the equivalent of EUR 9 million, with state broadcaster NRK reporting it’s to be paid in a digital currency known as Monero. Police wouldn’t confirm the amount of money involved.

Brøske said there’s been no voice contact from those behind the abduction, who have instead “used a digital communications platform.” He said there have been no signs of life from the missing woman, “but no signs that she’s not alive either.”

Modest lifestyle
Hagen is married to Tom Hagen, also aged 68, and estimated to have a fortune equal to around NOK 1.7 billion. Magazine Kapital has listed him in 172nd place on its most recent list of Norway’s wealthiest people. Neither Hagen nor his wife are well-known in Norway, however, with both refraining from media coverage.

Tom Hagen, however, is known to have been an active real estate investor for several decades, while much of his fortune is tied to his 70 percent sake in the energy firm Elkraft. He was among its founders in 1992. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported last summer that Hagen had earned roughly a billion kroner during the past 11 years. Both his wife and his eldest daughter have served on some of his companies’ boards of directors, but Anne-Elisabeth Falkevik Hagen is currently not listed as holding any board positions and reported modest income and fortune on her most recent tax returns.

NRK reported that the couple also chose to live modestly for the means, in a house located near large apartment buildings at Fjellhamar in Akershus County. The couple has three adult children, all in their 30s and 40s.

Home under constant watch
Police have cordoned off the couple’s home and civilian police patrols have held round-the-clock surveillance of the property since Hagen disappeared. The case has been a high priority, with the Øst Police District receiving assistance from state crime units Kripos, the police economic crime unit Økokrim, national security advisers, Europol and Interpol. NRK reported that Norway’s police intelligence unit PST has also been involved and Justice Minister Tor-Mikkel Wara has been informed. “I’m aware that the Øst Police District has been working on this case for quite some time, and that the investigation has a high priority,” Wara told VG on Wednesday.

Police Inspector Brøske said “professional” players are believed to be behind Hagen’s abduction. He said he was not aware of such a case in Norway before, but that it contains similarities to international cases. Police districts nationwide have been informed of the case and asked to evaluate any special measures for other wealthy families in their area.

“We have here a businessman whose wife has been kidnapped,” Brøske told NRK. “There’s reason to believe this is not a coincidence and that it was motivated by the prospect of economic gain. We have asked other police districts to consider their own residents and whether anyone else might be at risk.”

Calling for tips
He said police have no suspects and don’t know whether Hagen is being held in Norway or been taken abroad. When asked whether any rewards will be offered for information leading to her safe return, Brøske said that “can be an alternative.”

Police had initially decided to withhold the investigation but decided to go public with it because of a need for more information. Brøske called for tips and asked anyone who had been in the vicinity of the home located at Sloraveien 4 in Fjellhamar on or around October 31 to contact the police. A mobile police post was also being set up in the neighbourhood where local residents can speak with police.

The Hagen family has requested that it not be contacted by media. Prominent Oslo attorney Svein Holden has been appointed as the family’s legal adviser and was expected to field questions on behalf of the family.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund