‘Hjemme hos Amdi’ (At home with Amdi) was published by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten on 12 May 2013. Following is TvindAlert’s translation.
By Orla Borg and Carsten Ellegard
(Article Summary:) Headquarters: It’s a life of luxury as the wanted Tvind leader, Mogens Amdi Petersen, lives at his retreat in Mexico. For the first time, a member of Tvind’s Teachers Group comes forward to tell about life at Tvind’s headquarters where Petersen lives for long periods, while Danish police are still trying after seven years to bring him back to Denmark to stand trial.
(Text within photo of ‘TG Pacifico’:) Tvind’s international headquarters is located in San Juan de Las Pulgas, along the Pacific Ocean in Mexico, south of California.
This is where Petersen and other Tvind leaders wanted by the Danish authorities live some of the time.
Neither Danish nor Mexican authorities can gain access to the area, which is private, and an announced arrest warrant for five Tvind leaders has been postponed by the High Court in Denmark. [Ed. note: on 30 August, 2013 — three months after this story was published — Denmark’s High Court issued arrest warrants for Petersen and four aides, and requested Interpol to list the five in its online ‘Red Notices’ alerts for wanted persons.]
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Simon stiffened when he saw the Big Man at the wall a few meters away.
The tall, gangly man was in the company of a middle-age woman, and, as often was the case, his little white terrier ran about at his feet.
Simon had just left the lunch table in the dining room with a view over the Pacific Ocean, where as usual the waiter had served a hot, well-prepared meal. Now he was on his way back to his room in the guest wing, and it was here as he walked through the long open corridor that protected against the heat of the sun that he saw the Big Man.
Simon considered turning back. All of the rank-and-file members of Tvind who took courses at the Tvind headquarters on Mexico’s Pacific coast were a bit afraid of the nearly two-meter [6 foot, 6 inches] tall man, because Simon and the other Tvind course participants had been warned that there were areas in the enormous building complex that were out of bounds to them.
There were houses reserved for the use of the tall man and his closest associates. Others were not allowed to take the road up to the house on the hill where the man lived with a view of the rest of the complex, the bay and the ocean. That way, they usually avoided the Big Man, as Simon and the other travelling Tvind guests had begun calling him.
That’s why Simon proceeded rapidly through the blue corridor. He hoped to avoid the Tvind leader.
Disappeared for seven years
It was in the spring of 2010 that Simon was taking a course at TG Pacifico, Tvind’s international headquarters in San Juan de las Pulgas on Mexico’s Baja coast, some 160 kilometers [100 miles] south of the U.S.-Mexico border.
The man and woman Simon saw that day were Mogens Amdi Petersen and Malene Gunst. The Danish public prosecutors would very much like to meet with them. So much so that on Monday of last week the Prosecution Service took the first steps in persuading the Western High Court of Denmark to issue a warrant for their arrest. [Ed. note: the High Court issued the arrest warrants for Petersen and four aides on 30 August, 2013.]
Petersen has been off the radar for almost seven years, without the Danish prosecutors being able to find him and bring him home to face appeal proceedings on charges of tax fraud and embezzlement in the amount of DKK 34.8 million [US$ 6.15 million].
Now for the first time, through Simon — who recently left Tvind’s Teachers Group — the public can gain a glimpse of Petersen’s life at his hiding place for the past few years. Simon reveals in detail the life that Tvind’s founder leads at the Jan Utzon-designed complex in sunny Mexico, where Petersen stays so often that for all practical purposes you could say he lives there.
Land of beauty
After several months of correspondence, [the Danish newspaper] Jyllands-Posten meets Simon at a café in a shopping center on the outskirts of a European capital in early May. Out of concern for his own future and his current job, he does not want to use his real name. For the same reason, he also wants to meet in a discreet location where he can talk about life in the heart of Tvind, TG Pacifico in Las Pulgas, Mexico.
On that spring day when Simon nearly ran into Petersen at Las Pulgas, he saw the Tvind leader continue up to his house on the hill.
Petersen’s round house blends in well with the terrain. The walls are curved like the hill and painted red like the earth beneath the sparse growth on the incline. Very few windows face the outside world. The only thing that really breaks with the natural palette is the large white portal leading up to the house.
“This is where Amdi lives when he is in Mexico. It’s his home. And it’s out of bounds to others,” says Simon.
It was an overwhelming experience for Simon to visit TG Pacifico. In his many years as a member of the Teachers Group, he had been used to a Spartan existence with endlessly long work days and to turning over most of his earnings to the Teachers Group kitty. The allowance he received didn’t suffice for any kind of lavish spending.
But life at TG Pacifico was something completely different.
”It’s a fantastic place. The land of beauty. It almost seems like a place for celebrities,” says Simon.
“It’s really sumptuous”
Like all other visitors to the Pacific Ocean complex, Simon was stopped by guards after the 30-kilometer [18-mile] drive on the dusty gravel road leading to TG Pacifico from the nearest town, Santo Tomás.
Simon arrived at Las Pulgas in the company of eight other course participants, and they were shown rooms at one end of the complex, a large, white building. The interior almost looks like a cathedral, where from the ground floor you can look up into the vaulted ceiling.
“It’s like a five-star luxury hotel. Really sumptuous,” says Simon.
Not only were the rooms fine, but the service was as well. There were cooks, waiters, cleaning personnel and masseuses to serve the Teachers Group members.
Most of the service personnel are Mexicans, who live in low buildings some distance away from the buildings for the Teachers Group.
Amdi keeps to himself
For course participants and permanent residents at Las Pulgas, the week starts Monday morning with an eight-kilometer [five-mile] run in the area around the buildings. Petersen doesn’t join in. Afterwards, participants can choose to get a massage, practice yoga or go to the fitness center to train. After that, a delicious, healthy breakfast is served in the dining room, before the day’s instruction gets under way.
Classroom instruction comes with titles such as “Understanding the Collective,” ”Production and Productivity,” “How to Improve the Brain” or “Capitalist Globalization as a Barrier to the Good Life and the Good Way of Living.”
When morning instruction is over, there is time to relax in the sun or by the swimming pool, for example, before lunch is served.
Lunch is eaten with a view over the Pacific Ocean. Course participants sit together at tables, while waiters serve hot dishes prepared by both the Danish cook and the Mexican cook.
“The Danish women at top levels of the Teachers Group often come and eat lunch in the dining room and sit at the same tables as the course participants. But the Big Man does not. He has his meals served in his house or office,” says Simon.
If there is a special event — or it’s Saturday — the kitchen bakes a cake. There is one simple rule in connection with meals: alcohol is banned.
Afternoon instruction continues all the way to dinner time. Afterwards, many of the course participants gather in the round music building, where music is played from large loudspeakers.
”I found the music strange. And we always had to listen to the same thing. Some type of modern jazz,” says Simon.
Some evenings a movie was shown. Course participants were not to expect Hollywood blockbusters on the program list.
“They were special movies that the leaders had decided we should see. For example, movies about physical health or movies that directly or indirectly criticized the USA. They could be movies about American military actions and their consequences around the world,” explains Simon.
Watching broadcasts from CNN or the BBC, for example, was not looked upon with favor.
”We were told that the Tvind leadership would tell us the news we needed to know about the outside world,” says Simon.
Once darkness falls on Las Pulgas and stars fill the sky above the Pacific Ocean, many people like to go up to the observatory perched like an enormous golf ball some distance from the main buildings.
”It was always decided in advance every evening whether we were to see Mars, Jupiter or another heavenly body. The roof of the observatory can open so that you look through a limited space at precisely that spot in the sky you want to see. Then you just lean back and enjoy the beauty of outer space,” recalls Simon.
Others chose to spend the evening in the fitness center or strolling about the property, which is camera monitored. But while Las Pulgas is under the leadership’s video surveillance, it is strictly forbidden for course participants to take pictures on site. Consequently, very few pictures from Las Pulgas have been made public. [Ed. note: a TvindAlert informant took photos of the facility during its construction clean-up, c. 2007, here]
One evening in 2009, when Simon was on another course at TG Pacifico, he wanted to work out. In the fitness center he found the Big Man sitting and sweating near some weights. Once again, Simon hurried away.
”I don’t really know if it was out of fear of the man — you just scurried off when you saw him,” recalls Simon.
He still has contact with people in Tvind’s Teachers Group, who have seen Petersen at TG Pacifico as recently as October 2012.
No access for the authorities
There is much evidence to suggest that Las Pulgas is the center of the Tvind leadership’s activities today. Thus it’s from these luxurious surroundings that every month Tvind’s management sends a video news bulletin via e-mail to local leaders of the Teachers Group around the globe.
The monthly videos might be about work for the world’s poor, the future of the Teachers Group, or how future projects should be organized.
When e-mails are sent from Las Pulgas for further circulation in the Tvind system, they are usually encrypted. According to Simon, the encryption system used is called Truecrypt.
It is in these secret yet luxurious surroundings that Petersen has had his daily routine in recent years, at least for long periods.
The same holds true for the others indicted in the multimillion-dollar embezzlement and tax-fraud case — i.e., Kirsten Larsen, Malene Gunst and Christie Pipps. Simon says that he has also met the accused Sten Byrner at the center. He was not there often, however, because he was meant to spend most of his time on a Tvind plantation in Belize or Brazil.
The question is why the Danish public prosecutors don’t simply ask the Mexican police to go to Las Pulgas, find Petersen and let him know that an appeals case against him and the others is pending in Denmark.
The answer is simple: the area is private, and as long as there is no arrest warrant or imprisonment order directed against the Tvind leader, the local authorities cannot take much action.
Case postponed until August
However, the situation could change if the Western High Court [of Denmark] issues an international arrest warrant for the accused. In that case, the local police would presumably be able to enter Las Pulgas in order to find Petersen and the others. [Ed. note: as of June 2019, still no action on Mexico’s part]
When the High Court embarked on the appeals case — seven years after the District Court acquitted the Tvind people of tax fraud and embezzlement — the Danish Public Prosecutor’s plan was indeed to get the court to issue just such an arrest warrant.
However, the case was postponed until August 28 this year, because as part of their argument for pre-trial detention, the prosecutors would use passages from the case against another Tvind leader, Poul Jørgensen. But in 2007, the same prosecutors promised that they wouldn’t use the explanations from the Jørgensen case as evidence in a new case without producing witnesses.
Therefore, the Jørgensen judgment — he was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison — could not be used directly when the prosecutors wanted to claim they had probable cause to request an arrest warrant against the accused. Probable cause is necessary in order for the court to order pre-trial detention.
Thus the conclusion was to call a new court hearing at the end of August.
This means that in principle Petersen and the others involved have had four months to find a new place to live if they no longer feel safe in Las Pulgas.
The Danish daily newspaper Jyllands-Posten has been in contact with Simon for several months and has interviewed him for many hours after he recently left Tvind’s Teachers Group.
The newspaper has seen several documents, e-mails and accounts documenting that Simon has played a leading role in the countries in which he stayed while a member of Tvind’s Teachers Group. Out of consideration for his current work and future, he chooses not to give his real name or photograph.