Monday, January 17

Oslo lawyer charged with aggravated money laundering – the permit suspended

TV 2 has had access to the decision from the Advokatbevillingsnemden, which is dated 16 December 2021.

The background for the suspension is that he is accused of having laundered NOK 1.13 million for a 48-year-old payment agent in Oslo. The charge against the lawyer also applies to violations of the Money Laundering Act.

It was Finansavisen that first mentioned the case.

The payment agent, who was a client of the lawyer, is accused of laundering more than half a billion Norwegian kroner.

The charge against the lawyer was dropped by Kripos in September this year. VG have mentioned this before.

– I can confirm that Kripos has charged a lawyer for aggravated money laundering, in a case complex that is under investigation by the police, says police lawyer Anja Perminow Straand in Kripos to TV 2.

Denies criminal guilt

The police believe that the lawyer has laundered money by carrying out illegal transfers from a client account.

The Bar Licensing Board considered the Supervisory Board’s recommendation to suspend the lawyer on Thursday 16 December.

The decision states that “if he is finally convicted in accordance with the charge against him, this may lead to the revocation of his legal license”.

The criminal case is still under investigation, and the lawyer has not been charged. The lawyer is defended by Fredrik Berg, who writes in an e-mail to TV 2 that they have requested a temporary injunction demanding that the suspension be lifted.

– My client denies criminal guilt. It can be documented that the origin of the money is a legal payment intermediation business and that the entire amount of money that is allegedly laundered consists of small individual deposits from Norwegian verifiable customers. Thus, the very premise of the suspension is also wrong, Berg writes further in the e-mail.

13.5 million in the suitcase

The charge against the lawyer is part of a larger case complex, which is divided into a number of criminal cases that are still under investigation.

The 48-year-old payment agent, for whom the police believe that the lawyer has illegally transferred money, has run a so-called hawala business for a number of years.

It is a system for money transfers across national borders and serves as an alternative to the banking system in large parts of Asia and in parts of Africa. Hawala activities are based on trust and Islamic traditions and are not illegal in Norway.

Nevertheless, the Ministry of Finance decided several years ago that the 48-year-old’s company was not allowed to carry out payment services. The decision was made due to lack of accounting and control in the company.

The man’s customer relationship with the bank was therefore terminated, and his accounts were blocked. Nevertheless, the police believe that he continued to transport money out of Norway.

I September 2019, the 48-year-old was stopped at Gardermoen with NOK 13.5 million in his luggage. The year before, he was stopped with about 100,000 euros in his suitcase on his way home from Germany.

Since VG wrote about the case in July, the charge against the payment agent has been significantly expanded.

A prison sentence against the 48-year-old states that the police now believe they can prove that he has laundered more than half a billion kroner.

TV 2 has been in contact with police attorney Christian Eckhoff who has the prosecution responsibility in the case.

– We are investigating the case in full, and hope to get it up in court during 2022, says Eckhoff.

Received over 2.5 million

The decision, which TV 2 has been given access to, states that “the information in the case leaves the impression that the assignment the lawyer undertook, in reality was to circumvent a ban on payment services that the client had been imposed and that the client avoided the banks’ money laundering control and measures.” .

Furthermore, it says:

“It appears from the submitted e-mail correspondence between the lawyer […] and the client during the process, that the lawyer’s attempt to transfer the money first failed several times as a result of the banks following their statutory money laundering obligations. “

The lawyer himself has explained that he was familiar with the criminal case against the client.

He himself states that the amount that was transferred to his client account was just over NOK 2.5 million. The Bar Licensing Board believes that there is reason to suspect that large parts of this sum should be laundered for the 48-year-old payment agent.

The lawyer denies this. He has brought the decision on suspension before the court with a request for an interim injunction.

The Eastern Police District is investigating the case against the payment agent, while Kripos is investigating the criminal case against the lawyer.

The 48-year-old has been in police custody since January 2021.

The whole company under supervision

TV 2 has also been given access to a notice sent to the law firm where the accused lawyer works. The notification confirms that the entire company is subject to an audit.

In the notification, the Supervisory Board for the Legal Profession writes that on 8 October 2020, they received a tip from a named person about possible irregularities related to the processing of trusted funds.

The letter also draws attention to the fact that the Supervisory Board has previously received inquiries related to alleged acts worthy of criticism regarding the law firm’s fee demands and handling of assignments.

The Supervisory Board has asked the company to send an overview of all legal proceedings the company has been involved in, against current and previous clients, which concern fee claims and / or the performance of assignments.

“The Supervisory Board is initially requesting an overview that covers such cases in the period of the last five years,” the notice states.

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