NRK: Smith’s Friends’ Financial Fairytale

For more than a year, the Norwegian Broadcasting Company’s (NRK) documentary program Brennpunkt has been working on a theory that money raised by BCC members has been “lining the pockets of the church’s leaders” through BCC Financial. The basis for the theory comes from sources connected to Psy-Group’s influence campaign against BCC. 


By Berit Hustad Nilsen / Illustration and screenshot: BCC

In the fall of 2020, NRK Brennpunkt wrote the following: “In connection with the ongoing case against Jonathan van der Linden, his lawyer claims that members of BCC believed that the money they were donating would be used for development at Brunstad, but that large portions of the money instead disappeared ‘into the pockets’ of the church’s leaders. He justifies this statement saying that leaders received loans for millions of euros from BCC Financial, which was never repaid.” (Email from NRK Brennpunkt to Kåre J. Smith, Fall 2020.)

Screenshot of email from NRK

Early in the process of making their documentary on BCC, NRK Brennpunkt obtained access to what they describe as “a database of over 200,000 emails originating from BCC Financial’s operations in Cyprus.” That is one way of putting it. In reality, NRK Brennpunkt was given access to material from Jonathan van der Linden’s laptop and email inbox. This was also mentioned in his communication with NRK Brennpunkt journalist, Harald Eraker.

For more than four years, large media outlets in Norway and the Netherlands have published disinformation based on this material, which has been very harmful for BCC. All of the media outlets have encountered the same problem: it is impossible to interpret the material on their own. They have completely depended on others to explain, put it in context and determine what is supposedly relevant.

BCC has documentation showing that in NRK Brennpunkt’s case, it was Jonathan van der Linden, Oscar Floor and Ben van Wijhe who explained and selected the material, and attempted to give it the desired meaning.

NRK looks for discreditable information

On Thursday, January 2, Harald Eraker from NRK Brennpunkt writes to Jonathan van der Linden: “And so we are actively checking the companies in the BCC system with the following aim: Can we find documentation that KJS, BAL, or the Lindstad brothers have companies or activities now funded by the BCC system, that is, from money donated by members or volunteer work.”

Screenshot of email from NRK

Then Eraker lists the names of 12 companies, and writes: “I basically wonder what you know about these companies in relation to the named BCC leaders? Have some of these loans gone to companies privately owned by Kåre Smith & Co?”

So NRK Brennpunkt’s agenda is obvious. Norway’s state-financed channel is out to find discreditable information about Kåre J. Smith and Bernt Aksel Larsen to support the angle of their story.

And they ask Jonathan van der Linden, who is charged with fraud, to help them find it.

READ: Where are the savings from the local churches? 

At this time, NRK Brennpunkt had already been in New Haven, USA for filming in connection with Kåre J. Smith’s witness interrogation. They had also interviewed van der Linden’s lawyer, who was paid by the Dutchman Ben van Wijhe, according to what van Wijhe himself writes on social media. BCC also has documentation showing that van Wijhe was involved in the preparation of the questions that Kåre J. Smith was asked in this witness interview.

On Wednesday, June 3, 2020, after working on the case for half a year, Harald Eraker wrote to none other than Ben van Wijhe: “One of our main thing right now is to try to find examples of local menigheter who never got back the money to this date that they put into BCC Financial (or BCC Global). Would you or any of your people in you network have any possibility to find an example of this?”

At this point, Eraker had known for almost half a year that van Wijhe was listed as Psy-Group’s client in their own documents. Nevertheless, he asked for help from van Wijhe’s “network” to find discreditable information about BCC.

NRK gets an explanation – from sources who have a common agenda

A few days later, on Monday, June 8, Eraker sends a long email to Jonathan van der Linden. In this email, it is very clear that Eraker, despite half a year’s work with the material, understood little of the documentation he was going through regarding the local churches’ savings. He had question after question for van der Linden: “I don’t quite understand this … Confusing … What balance are they referring to? …”  He repeatedly asks van der Linden to explain the material he is quoting, ending with: “I feel we are getting close to understanding what happened to the savings of the local churches now. Thanks again for helping us understand all these things Jonathan!!”

Screenshot av e-post fra NRK

Screenshot of email from NRK

 

What is shown above are just three examples among dozens of emails where Harald Eraker in NRK Brennpunkt needs explanations and help from Jonathan van der Linden, Oscar Floor and Ben van Wijhe.

From emails to accounts

The fact is, Harald Eraker and NRK Brennpunkt could have saved themselves a lot of work if they had taken the trouble to start at the right end with auditor-approved accounts and information from public registers. When BCC received questions from NRK Brennpunkt, this was exactly what we did. We simply went into the auditor-approved accounts from BCC Financial, which, in stark contrast to NRK Brennpunkt’s claims, clearly showed that all loans from BCC Financial had been repaid with interest.

The only exceptions were smaller loans to the Dutch foundation HMC, which had to be waived as a consequence of the fraud perpetrated by Jonathan van der Linden. The accounts also showed that the management of BCC Financial had resulted in a profit of approximately NOK 25 million, which was transferred to non-profit objectives related to BCC. The local churches’ savings had not ended up “in the pockets” of the leaders.

However, this was not good enough for NRK Brennpunkt, which at this time had put in almost a year of work based on the hypothesis that money from BCC Financial had ended up “in the pockets” of the leaders because loans had not been repaid. NRK Brennpunkt therefore passed on the question to at least 15 local churches. Volunteers across the country had to pause their non-profit activities and instead work to find accounting information documenting the facts. And the facts showed once again that the allegations from NRK Brennpunkt’s sources were about as far from reality as it was possible to get.

NRK Brennpunkt and Harald Eraker are supposed to represent the best of Norwegian investigative journalism. If this is the case, it is very worrying for Norwegian investigative journalism and for the minorities, organizations or individuals who may come under the scrutiny of NRK Brennpunkt and Eraker.

What are the facts about BCC Financial and their lending business; who received loans, and which rules applied? We will discuss this in more detail in the next article on loans to the leaders.