The statement came from Jonathan van der Linden’s publicly appointed lawyer John Peters in connection with a preparatory court hearing in the Netherlands in August 2016.
At the court hearing, Peters presented demands that Kåre J. Smith, Bernt Aksel Larsen and several other BCC members should be summoned as witnesses in the criminal case against his client Jonathan Van der Linden. Peters’ statement was duly quoted by the newspaper Dagens Næringsliv, which opened the case under the headline “Smith’s Friends’ leaders must testify”.
Jonathan Van der Linden had quickly admitted to the police investigators the facts surrounding the fraud of more than five million euros from the non-profit Dutch foundation HMC. These facts were so clear that it was unrealistic to build any legal defense around sowing doubt about them. The fact was that Jonathan Van der Linden had carried out a number of large transactions to accounts managed by himself and his girlfriend. The money ended up in accounts in Dubai, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and the Netherlands.
In order to carry out the transactions, he had prepared false loan documents, forged signatures and had also instructed accounting staff in the affected organizations not to talk to others about these matters. He also gave instructions on how the transactions should be entered in the accounts so that they would be more difficult to detect.
Jonathan Van der Linden had obviously hoped that it would be a long time before his fraud was discovered.
Threat led to the fraud was quickly uncovered
It seems quite clear that Jonathan Van der Linden had hoped to hide his fraud until the annual accounts were audited. This would have given him almost a year to prepare himself.
In a police interview, he stated that when the transactions were discovered, he reckoned that the threat to their reputation would cause HMC to enter into negotiations without reporting him, and that as a result he would be allowed to keep at least part of the money he had taken. In February 2016, Van der Linden established the website BCC-leaks.
In the resignation letters he sent when he left HMC and the other organizations he worked for, he made it clear that it would be best for all parties if he could be left in peace. He made such a strong point when it came to accusations and allegations about what was allegedly going on in the business, that most recipients realized that his dismissal was based on something more than just the fact that he had found a new girlfriend.
The organizations Jonathan Van der Linden had held positions in therefore decided to meet to review accounts, bank statements and other documentation. When comparisons were made in the documentation from the various organizations, it only took a couple of days before it was clear that this revolved around a major fraud.
In this way, Jonathan Van der Linden’s desire to make the reputation threat clear-cut, led to the fraud being discovered only a few days after he sent the letter of resignation. After a couple of weeks, the transactions were mapped and documented, and a report was sent to the police. In fact, the fraud was so thoroughly documented that the prosecution’s own investigation added very little. Most of it had already been uncovered, defined, and documented.
The evidence that now constitutes the most important part of the basis for the sentence of 2,5 years in prison, was thus already six years ago served to the prosecution “on a silver platter”.
Convicted fraudster had to find an alternative strategy, and planned an information war
In 2016 it was a very difficult, if not impossible task for Jonathan Van der Linden’s lawyers, to try to cast doubt on what had actually happened. In the preparatory court hearing in August 2016, it became clear which strategy they had instead chosen. That meant an information war on the narrative. Now Van der Linden was to be portrayed as a whistle-blower, who bravely turned the spotlight on “dirty tricks, tax evasion and manipulation” in the environment he had left. His story was that after many years in this system, where he had been indoctrinated that “the brothers were always right”, he had a diminished ability to distinguish between right and wrong. He had acted like a puppet who was, in reality, controlled by others. Now he had finally seen the light and had decided to warn the outside world of what was happening.
The gaps in Jonathan Van der Linden’s story were clearly both large and numerous. The reality was that already in 2011, he had begun to deceive the organizations he worked for. In the beginning, he did this by sending the invoice for the same trip to two or three different organizations, and thus got reimbursed for twice or three times as much expenses as he was entitled to.
Eventually he became entangled in a net where he himself was pressured for money both by prostitutes and by backers in the prostitution community. As a result, he spent several million Norwegian kroner on protection money against these environments, an expense he managed to falsely charge to one of the organizations he worked for. There is little in Van der Linden’s actual story that is reminiscent of a naive person who allowed himself to be ruled or led by others, or who was not aware of what he was doing.
Lack of source criticism meant that Van der Linden was allowed to control the narrative
It is all the more shocking, therefore, that powerful, leading media such as Dagens Næringsliv, NRC Handelsblad and NRK Brennpunkt completely uncritically swallowed Van der Linden’s narrative – and thus perfectly filled the role that the lawyers Verbruggen and Peters had planned for the media in their defense strategy.
The media hid themselves behind a claim that Jonathan Van der Linden was just one of several sources, and that they had gained access to 200,000 emails from police seizures that proved Van der Linden’s allegations.
The problem was that this was also a lie.
The 200,000 emails did not come from police seizures. They came from a hard drive that Van der Linden himself had surrendered. Moreover, this was all in a format where it was completely impossible for the media to check if any of the content had been manipulated. The media only had Van der Linden’s word that this was the same as the police seizure.
But, no less important was the fact that the e-mails had no value without Jonathan Van der Linden himself selecting, explaining and giving them meaning and context. BCC has subsequently gained access to extensive documentation which shows that the journalists got very little out of these e-mails on their own.
The other sources, employed by the media were people who had gained their information from Van der Linden, so in reality he was their only source, who had full control of the narrative.
The article continues below.
The media turned up well prepared in the courtroom
The massive media reports in Dagens Næringsliv and NRC Handelsblad in late autumn 2016 fitted perfectly into Jonathan Van der Linden’s defense strategy. The relationship with the journalists became close.
The next step was the questioning of the witnesses Bernt Aksel Larsen and Kåre J. Smith. For those who were present during the interrogation of witnesses, it was quite obvious that they had no relevance in relation to shedding light on Van der Linden’s criminal case. Instead, there were endless attempts to “fish” into Smith and Larsen’s business activities and to get them to say something that could be compromising for themselves. The questioning of witnesses took place based on documents from Van der Linden’s e-mail box, not only selected by himself but also translated into Dutch by himself. The documents were in several cases sent to the journalists in advance so that they could follow along in the courtroom.
Incredibly, it transpired bit by bit that Jonathan Van der Linden had written Dutch text directly into the e-mails themselves and had thus had full access to edit them as he wished. In addition, the translations were in several cases incorrect, and in one case a sentence was given the exact opposite meaning in Dutch compared to the original Norwegian text. This was because Van der Linden had omitted a “not”. These documents thus formed the basis for the questioning of witnesses Smith, Larsen, and a number of other witnesses.
When the questioning of Bernt Aksel Larsen in January 2017 ended with him being classified as a “suspect”, the justification was almost absurd. Larsen was informed that his explanation could be interpreted as implying that he had “contributed to forgery of documents”. But – as everyone who had access to the case documents could see – Larsen had not been involved in the preparation of the document on which the prosecution based the suspicion, nor had he signed it. The document also had no relevance to the criminal case against Van der Linden. The document pertained to a transaction that was never completed, and had therefore never come into force.
What happened in the courtroom, however, was that Van der Linden’s lawyers read excerpts from an e-mail chain in which Larsen commented in respect to a completely different document, which he had actually dealt with. But when the lawyers presented these extracts, they presented it as if the e-mail chain was about the first-mentioned document, which Larsen had never had anything to do with. The interesting thing is that their distorted approach might not have been discovered if Larsen’s lawyer had not demanded that the correct documents be attached to the court journal. When this was finally done after repeated reminders, the distortion became manifest, and the Dutch Prosecuting Authority also later confirmed in writing to Larsen that he was no longer a suspect.
Dagens Næringsliv closed its eyes to dirty tricks
What was of interest here is that Dagens Næringsliv, which was present in the courtroom, had for a long time already had access to all the e-mails that were presented. It is hard to imagine that they did not retrieve these documents while sitting in the courtroom, and it is even more difficult to imagine that they did not understand the game that was going on before their eyes. Had the newspaper been interested in conducting factual journalism, they would in their article from the witness hearing, have shed light on what happened in the courtroom. However, they did not.
“Smiths Friends-leader are suspect”, was the headline the newspaper used in the article. Yet another goal to Jonathan Van der Linden.
The reality of how close the collaboration was between Dagens Næringsliv and Jonathan Van der Linden, came to light the next time Bernt Aksel Larsen was to be questioned as a witness, in March 2017. Also, this time the newspaper’s journalists had a close dialogue with Jonathan Van der Linden in advance, and even received the questions that Larsen was to be asked.
When at one point, DN journalist Line Dugstad thought that the Norwegian judge had not understood the content of an input from Jonathan Van der Linden’s lawyers “correctly”, she immediately wrote this to him in an e-mail, and he immediately notified his lawyers inside the courtroom. This resulted in Van der Linden’s lawyer Aldo Verbruggen once more adressing the case. But the Norwegian judge had understood what this was about, and had probably seen through the Dutchmen’s game, so he stuck to his decision.
The DN journalist, Line Dugstad had now taken an active role on Jonathan Van der Linden`s side. The journalist Dugstad was no longer just an observer giving an account of what was going on; she had become an active helper on behalf of Van der Linden and was influencing what was happening in the courtroom in Van der Linden’s favor.
Oscar Floor assisted to Van der Linden during court hearing
Line Dugstad was not the only one who assisted Jonathan Van der Linden during the interrogation of witnesses in the court. The Dutchman Oscar Floor was present during several of the interrogations. He reported continuously to Van der Linden so that the latter could provide input to the lawyers nonstop.
Oscar Floor was also involved in preparing questions for the interrogation of witnesses, while on his BCC-critical website he was attempting to appear as a “neutral third-party observer”.
The image of the BCC leader “on the run” fitted perfectly
The story that Jonathan Van der Linden, through Oscar Floor and other assistants, tried to establish was that Larsen and Smith were unwilling to stand for the further questioning of witnesses, and that they were “on the run” from the legal system. Eventually, this also became a story that spread to the media, and on which the NRK Brennpunkt journalists relied.
Journalist Harald Eraker used this as an approach in his dialogue with Van der Linden. “We find it particularly interesting that Kåre Smith has now for several years evaded the attempts by the Dutch prosecuting authority to be questioned in connection with BCC’s trial against you. Is there something he is trying to hide? », He wrote.
Harald Eraker’s formulation exposes a crying lack of insight into the case, which is inexcusable considering that this should be among the elite in investigative journalism. Firstly, BCC had no court case against Van der Linden. Secondly, the public dialogue between Kåre J. Smith and the Dutch legal system shows that Smith had always been willing to testify. He offered to appear in Norway in the autumn of 2017, but then this did not fit for the Dutch authorities. He then offered to appear in early 2018, but the Norwegian authorities refused to conduct interrogations because Smith at this time had moved to the United States to be closer to his daughter, who lived there.
Thereafter, it was more than a year before Smith heard from the authorities again. As soon as he was contacted by them in the United States, he confirmed his willingness to appear, provided the condition of his health and his personal safety were taken into account. Jonathan Van der Linden’s lawyers of course knew well about this dialogue, but since it was far more expedient to spread a story that Smith was “on the run”, this was what became the public story. And NRK Brennpunkt saw no reason to ask critical questions about Jonathan Van der Linden’s presentation. The Norwegian State TV Channel, in the same way as Dagens Næringsliv, became important players in spreading Jonathan Van der Linden’s narrative. At the same time, the Brennpunkt team was used as a hidden threat in the attempt to reach a settlement.
When NRK Brennpunkt appeared in New Haven, USA in connection with the questioning of witness Kåre J. Smith in November 2019, they had been thoroughly prepared by Jonathan Van der Linden. Oscar Floor, together with Ben van Wijhe, and several others, had worked intensively to prepare questions for the witness hearing. BCC is in possession of documentation that shows that they expected Aldo Verbruggen to be able to get Smith to be declared a suspect, and that the NRK journalists would then be perfectly positioned to blow this all up.
As is known, things did not exactly turn out like that. Instead, the Brennpunkt team’s US trip ended up as a wasted road trip that cost the Norwegian taxpayer large amounts. But the close contact between NRK and Jonathan Van der Linden continued. Despite assurances from the Dutch authorities that the interrogation of witnesses was to be confidential, NRK Brennpunkt gained access to the official minutes as soon as they were sent to Van der Linden’s lawyers. Ironically, Kåre J. Smith himself did not have access to these. This created the absurd situation that he later received questions from Brennpunkt journalists based on confidential court reports from his own testimony, which he himself did not have access to.
What became of the Parliamentary white paper?
«I am working, together with a couple of colleagues in NRK Brennpunkt on a documentary series that is scheduled to air next year. The background is the Parliamentary White Paper on Faith and Religion, which was presented before the summer. What we are especially thinking of here is that the crossover between freedom of religion as a human right and Norwegian laws and regulations is interesting and important.”Harald Eraker and Inger Sunde
This is how journalists Harald Eraker and Inger Sunde introduced the Brennpunkt team’s documentary when they first approached us at BCC. BCC was very interested in the work on the White Paper that the journalists referred to. In the introduction to the report, we can read:
«…a society where religion and views on life are restricted, will be less inclusive and diverse. It is therefore important to ensure a comprehensive policy that actively support faith and religion and recognizes people’s faith and outlook on life in an open-minded society.”
The fact that NRK Brennpunkt by Sunde and Eraker wanted to take a closer look at this was initially both commendable and interesting. The reality was, however, that at the same time as they were communicating with us about the above, Eraker was in a dialogue with Van der Linden, and thereby, as is well known, both the tone and the angle were completely different.
When the Brennpunkt program went on the air in November 2020, there was little reminiscent of Eraker and Sunde having contributed a single jot towards the White Paper and the importance of “recognizing people’s faith and outlook on life in an open-minded society”.
Instead, the country’s most powerful media house made a powerful effort to limit, ridicule and campaign against our many thousands of members who hold their Christian faith as an important part of their lives.
The media’s alternative narrative is still out there
One and a half years have passed since the Brennpunkt program went on the air.
Jonathan Van der Linden has been convicted in both the civil case and the criminal case brought against him. His actions and motivation have been clearly described and explained by the judges. The reality which emerges from the court decisions is radically different from the narrative spread by NRK Brennpunkt, Dagens Næringsliv, NRC Handelsblad and Tønsbergs Blad.
BCC was the subject of much ridicule in the press when two years ago we issued information about a professional paramilitary environment with experience of information war, which was employed to help shape a narrative about BCC that fitted the interests of Jonathan Van der Linden, Ben Van Wijhe and Oscar Floor.
Based on their article on nrk.no on 22 April 2022, the state channel is not prepared to accept criticism. Van der Linden’s false narrative is still being maintained. We can only say that this is sad, as it helps to maintain the polarizing and prejudiced attitude towards BCC in Norwegian society, which NRK Brennpunkt has perhaps contributed to more than anyone
Today, the court decisions handed down from two Dutch courts tell a clear story. Reports and conclusions from a three-year investigation by Økokrim recount an equally clear story. In addition to stating the facts, this narrative also demonstrates clearly how the judicial system and public organizations can be abused to charge innocent people, if opinion leaders in the press are on your side.
Unfortunately, there has been nearly no interest in this story from the media. It has gone completely against their established narrative.
Or why not state it as it is – their “shaped reality”?