AARHUS, Denmark, 29 August 2013 — The Western High Court today ordered that Tvind founder Mogens Amdi Petersen and four other Tvind leaders be remanded into custody in absentia — meaning ‘without being present’.
After a lengthy hearing on Wednesday, the High Court on Thursday accepted the state prosecutor’s claim that there are grounds
for the pre-trial detention of the 74-year-old Petersen and the others, in part because they twice failed to appear in criminal proceedings for their alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar tax-fraud and embezzlement scheme.
Defence lawyers had argued that the remand warrant was unfair, because seven years have passed since the acquittal of Petersen and the other defendants at the district court in Ringkøbing. But the High Court finds that there is a reasonable suspicion that the five are guilty of serious financial crimes. The judges also stated that the five have attempted to evade the trial, thus satisfying the conditions for a remand warrant.
In absentia is Latin for “in the absence”. In legal usage, the term is often applied to a trial at which the defendant is not physically present. In some legal systems, a trial can be conducted in absentia when the defendant flees or otherwise voluntarily fails to appear in court after being arrested.
In August 2006, Petersen and six other members of Tvind’s Teachers Group (TG) were acquitted on charges of embezzlement and tax-fraud committed in connection with Tvind’s so-called Humanitarian Fund. Besides Petersen, the acquitted were Kirsten Larsen, Poul Jørgensen, Bodil Ross Sørensen, Ruth Sejerøe-Olsen, Marlene Gunst, and Christie Pipps, who is also known as Kirsten Fuglsbjerg. An eighth TG member, Sten Byrner, was found guilty and given a one-year conditional sentence.
The prosecution immediately appealed the verdict to a higher court. But all except Jørgensen fled Denmark shortly after being acquitted. Petersen has been confirmed to be hiding at the TG’s luxurious headquarters on Mexico’s Baja coast. The rest are believed to be hiding either at the Baja compound, or in Zimbabwe, where the group has another headquarters.
Jørgensen, who had remained in Denmark for the appeal trial, was found guilty in January 2009, and sentenced to 30 months imprisonment. According to prosecutors, Jørgensen diverted millions of dollars earmarked for charitable use into TG-owned private businesses.
Petersen, Larsen, Gunst, Pipps and Byrner are named as defendants in the new indictment, which involves figures ranging between 11 million and 34 million Danish Kroner (roughly US$2 million to US$6 million).
With the remand warrant in hand, the Danish police immediately took the next step of adding Petersen and the others to the ‘Red Notices’ list of wanted persons on Interpol’s website. The High Court has also revoked their passports.
Wherever they are, Amdi Petersen and his aides now have a reason to look over their shoulder.
Link to The Copenhagen Post, here: