Danish court convicts 1, acquits 7, in fraud case involving humanitarian groups

International Herald Tribune/August 31, 2006

Copenhagen, Denmark -- A local court on Thursday convicted the financial controller of several humanitarian organizations in a major Danish fraud and embezzlement case, but acquitted seven other suspects, including the alleged ringleader.

Sten Byrner was given a one-year suspended sentence in a case allegedly involving the embezzlement of 56 million kroner (€7.5 million; US$9.6 million) and tax fraud amounting to 52 million kroner (€7 million; US$9 million) over 14 years.

Prosecutor Poul Gade had argued the fraud was orchestrated by Mogens Amdi Petersen, the founder of Tvind, a private Danish foundation he created in 1970 and known worldwide as Humana People-To-People. Peterson denied controlling any foundations connected to Tvind.

Ringkoebing City Court, 230 kilometers (140 miles) west of Copenhagen, acquitted seven of the group, including the 67-year-old Petersen.

The trial began in March 2003, included 170 court sessions and ended in a 4,000-page verdict, details of which were not made available.

Police began investigating Tvind in 2000, after former foundation members claimed it was the center of a complex tax fraud scheme. Petersen was charged in absentia with fraud and embezzlement the same year.

He disappeared from Denmark amid fraud allegations in 1979 and was arrested in February 2002 at Los Angeles Airport on his way from Mexico to Africa.

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