Seven people are due to appear in court in a sprawling fraud case in which police believe hundreds of millions are unaccounted for. No one admits guilt, but many accuse someone.
The 28-page indictment against the seven men details tax evasion and prostitution involving a total of several hundred million kroner.
At the heart of the litigation complex is an accounting office located on the western edge of Oslo.
None of the defendants pleaded guilty.
Before the trial, many of them point to the person behind the accounting office, believing that he dragged them into the trial.
On Tuesday, the trial begins at the Oslo District Court. Ten weeks are allotted.
Pleads not guilty
In February 2020, police and tax authorities launched a campaign against several addresses in eastern Norway.
More than 100 inspectors and tax officials participated. The main target was the office in Paiktoi Alle in Oslo, where accountant Trond Karem’s (59) company Regnskopsavdeling 1 (Amber 1) is located.
Garem is an accountant and president and general manager of several active businesses.
– The Rav 1 has implemented what we believe to be criminal conditions not only for customers but also for us. As an accountant, you have control over how transactions can be carried out and what you can avoid, says Carl Johan Logan, prosecutor and police prosecutor in the Oslo Police District.
In total, between 2015 and 2020, police believe Garem failed to record NOK 235.5 million in bank transactions.
The main defendant, Trond Kaarem, pleaded not guilty, according to his lawyer Pål Sverre Hernæs.
– He will explain to the court, no comment beyond this, Hernes tells E24.
– Hard to detect
There are two main defendants in the case: Kaarem and Finn Arne Berntsen (59).
The two were previously known as the president and managing director of Dataroom, a Norwegian company representing the Russian owners of a controversial server park and bitcoin factory in Alvdal.
Bitcoin factory is not the complicated part of this case.
On the other hand Kaarem’s company accounting department 1, is central to this case. According to the indictment, Berndsen issued fictitious invoices through his company, Terrassen Råd, Ékonomi Kvalitet og Konsultböveester! AS (TRØKK), and Kaarem booked the invoices.
Thus, the prosecution believes that they have made it possible for clients to evade taxes.
– They have many clients, and as accountants they also control what are called subsidiary companies, says Logan.
– These are hard-to-detect crimes, by drawing fictitious documents and concealing book-keeping, transactions appear otherwise.
Loken cites an example from the indictment where several hundreds of thousands of fictitious invoices were sent to one of the client companies, and then paid, without invoices relating to services actually performed. It is an attempt to legitimize illegal withdrawals from the company.
– He says that it is a withdrawal which is not salary or dividend and is alleged on the basis of the fact that it was made to avoid tax as well as exemption for value added tax is wrong.
– According to the charge sheet, a lot of money is missing. Do you have any theories as to where they went?
– In general, the money ended up being somewhat different, depending on which topic you focus on. For example, when it comes to alleged frauds based on the use of fictitious invoices, the prosecution believes that most of the chargebacks ended up with customers personally and some with the accounting firm. Additionally, the allegation is based on the fact that the invoices were illegally used to deduct value-added tax, says Logan.
– An intelligent system
Lars Enger, Finn Arne Berntsen’s defense attorney, says he does not want to comment on the case.
Other men in the case have been accused of varying degrees of persistence and complicity. Rao 1 was the accountant for all.
None of them pleaded guilty.
Attorney Linnea Carlberg represents a man who was the chairman of the board of an entrepreneurial company that used the Rav 1.
– He was duped into a clever scheme created by the key figure in the case, Trant Garem, which resulted in an indictment. Karlberg says our client did not understand the implications of the lawsuit and disagreed with their explanations.
E24 has submitted allegations that Garem cheated his clients for his bodyguard Hernes. He declined to comment.
– Our opinion on this is that our client will give evidence in court and answer questions there. As his lawyers, we will prosecute the case in court, not in the media. Therefore, we have no comment on the allegations at this time,” he writes in a text message.
Håkon Brækhus defends a caretaker who used Rao 1. He also believes he is not guilty of the charges.
– He does not approve any post. He has been a caretaker and addressed Rao 1 in a casual manner. They have to take care of everything financially as a company and report to the authorities. Then he realizes they took money from his company, says Brakes.
It has brought in Associate Judges with specialized expertise
André Kirkholm, Arnt Angell and Håkon Juell Hassel defend the bottom three. They tell E24 none of their clients have pleaded guilty.
Ten weeks have been set aside for the case to be brought before the Oslo District Court. In an attempt to present the case academically, the prosecution has proposed that it be dealt with one institution at a time.
As the case is complex, associate judges with special expertise in audit and accounting have been selected.
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