Wanted cult chief on run in UK say Danish fraud squad

Independent/June 5, 2001
By Michael Durham

A reclusive cult leader wanted by police in Denmark has fled to Britain amid allegations of fraud and tax evasion in a worldwide "humanitarian foundation" worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

Amdi Petersen, who has not been seen in public for 22 years, is now in Britain, Danish officials said yesterday. An arrest warrant was issued by Danish police after raids on his headquarters in Grinsted, Denmark, in April. Mr Petersen, 61, who is believed to spend most of his time at luxury homes in Florida, the Cayman Islands or Zimbabwe, heads a network of interrelated charities in the Third World, the United States and Europe.

In Britain, "charities" connected with his organisation take an estimated £2m a year.

Mr Petersen and four others are wanted by Danish police because of irregularities in a 75m-kroner (£6m) charitable foundation, the Humanitarian Fund. Officials of Ulfborg, a Danish town where his organisation has a headquarters, said Mr Petersen had given written notice that he intended to travel to Britain "for the purpose of emigrating."

Danish tax experts said they believed Mr Petersen intended to put himself beyond the reach of Danish law because British fraud laws were less stringent. Two others from Mr Petersen's organisation, known as Tvind, have also moved to Britain.

Mr Petersen, a former left-wing activist, dropped out of public life in 1979. Former colleagues say he feared assassination. One said: "Officially, Petersen went underground all those years ago to think great thoughts. In fact, we all knew he was in trouble." But he has built up a worldwide empire with charities and business in 50 countries worth at least £3bn.

James Rawbone, a Briton who spent four months at a Tvind school in Denmark, described it as "a rather elaborate con-trick". Despite paying £3,000 in fees, teaching was poor and facilities "close to non-existent."

In Britain, Mr Petersen's "charities" are the College for International Co-operation and Development, near Hull, and two commercial recycling companies, Green World Recycling and Planet Aid UK. In December, an investigation by The Independent on Sunday found that more than £1m raised by Green World Recycling was being transferred to accounts in Switzerland and Holland.

Seven Humana shops and two schools in Hull and Norwich were closed by the Charities Commission in 1998.

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