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ID Theft, Fraud, and Money Laundering Uncovered by A-crime Hunter Lars Mamen and Fair Play Bygg Oslo in 2023

ID theft, fraud, threats, wage theft and money laundering.

It’s just some of what A-crime hunter Lars Mamen and his colleagues in Fair Play Bygg Oslo and the surrounding area will support in 2023.

This week they hold their annual conference, where they present reports from their work in the previous year. And it is sensational reading.

“Through our work in 2023, we have uncovered threat actors who collaborate with strong Russian interests. Actors in the real estate industry who grossly exploit workers and have straws in the state coffers by having public actors come in as tenants. Employees who were brought to Norway with visas to work in fishing, but who were put to work cleaning construction machinery under miserable conditions and were grossly exploited. Several cases of ID misuse and ID theft and serious fraud cases.”

Threat actors are what Fair Play calls criminal actors who use their working life to extract, or launder, profit, explains Lars Mamen to Dagsavisen.

– Some of them use crude methods that we recognize from other types of crime, such as threats and violence, and the recruitment of people in vulnerable positions. Kripos has recently come up with a threat assessment. There they write outright that part of the organized criminal networks use the construction industry to create a legal facade for their activities.

Mamen says that based on the cases they have reported, they can see that the crime is also becoming more serious. His conclusion is clear:

– There is no reason to reduce efforts against workplace crime.

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Fair Play Build Oslo and surroundings

  • Bilateral cooperation between employees and employers, started in 2018.
  • Aims to ensure a serious construction industry with equal competitive conditions.
  • Works to increase recruitment into the industry, and expose and remove those who destroy the industry’s reputation.
  • Will contribute to making it attractive to operate seriously with permanent employees, skilled workers and apprentices. One must compete on equal terms, not against criminal actors.

Source: fairplaybyggoslo.no

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– A form of modern slavery

One of the cases that took a lot of time and capacity for Fair Play last year was a network consisting of criminal actors who engaged in fraud and bankruptcy crime. Fair Play also suspects that this network is linked to criminal circles that have used the construction industry to extract large profits.

– They have used the bankruptcy institute to repeatedly bankrupt their own companies, and transferred the loss to society. In that network, there were also workers who were very grossly exploited, bordering on what could be called forced labour, says Mamen.

Some criminals also know how to take advantage of the opportunities that lie in the great digitization of society. Fair Play knows of cases where workers have had their digital IDs stolen by employers, who in turn have used these to take out loans or start businesses, without the workers knowing about it.

– I believe that theft of ID is like a form of modern slavery. A far higher yield can be obtained through this, than through traditional forced labour, where people think that they are standing in chains and building a road. This is made possible by the fact that it should be easy to set up businesses and get bank loans. It is of course a value in society, but Norwegian society does not do well to prevent the abuse and identity theft that this digital ID has made possible.

This is how stolen digital IDs are misused

– Workers can be exposed to ID theft and be left with large debts, which fraudsters have inflicted on them. They do this, for example, by setting up a company in their name. There are several examples of this, both that they misuse digital ID, but also that they can send fake, fictitious minutes and minutes from general meetings, and list new names on the board. They can create companies in the name of the workers, with the masterminds abusing their digital ID. In this way, they can become responsible for sole proprietorships over which they have no control. Or the perpetrators misuse their bank accounts, explains Lars Mamen in Fair Play Bygg Oslo and surroundings.

In addition to the enormous personal consequences it can have for the person who has their ID stolen, Mamen believes that this is also a problem for society.

– This leads to the fact that the information that is entered in the Brønnøysund registers is not always correct, as it is absolutely essential that for society to function and for us to have confidence in the information that is there.

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Ask the police to step up

Lars Mamen emphasizes that it is not the case that the construction industry is characterized by criminal actors, but that there is plenty of scope for those who want to operate in that way.

– These criminal actors often come in as subcontractors on large and small construction sites. They neglect the construction industry and they are also in a position to use corruption, bribes and threats to secure tenders.

Mamen and his Fair Play colleagues see that it is primarily foreign workers who are exploited by the threat actors.

– These are typical workers from poor countries in the EU, who often come to Norway with very little money. They are dependent on getting a job, and they often get that from an employer who can also give them a lousy place to live. Then they become prisoners of the employer, in that the employer is also the host. If they lose their job or resign, they are also without a place to live.

It is a situation employers know how to exploit, says Mamen. And it becomes extra problematic when the workers seek help from the police.

– And then they have been rejected. It is something we see as very problematic, that they do not have an apparatus around them that can help them with the matters when they first try to get out of the situation they have found themselves in. We believe that an exit scheme must be established for workers who are grossly exploited.

Fair Play has proposed to the government that there should be a new section in the Criminal Code on gross exploitation. They have promised to look into that, says Mamen, but he also asks the police to take the cases more seriously.

– It is not just a question of whether the individual’s rights are abused here, but also a question of the entire organization of Norwegian society.

– Then again there are dramatic consequences for those who are abused in this way. They become trapped in debt which the masterminds can use to recruit for other types of crime. It also provides opportunities for social security fraud, and society must take this more seriously.

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Cut the budget

Social security fraud, loan fraud, work injuries and human trafficking.

247 cases of workplace crime were documented by Fair Play Bygg in 2023, 22 more than in 2022. Among them also cases where Oslo municipality, NAV and UDI are involved.

– Oslo municipality and Nav have been buyers of services from those who have engaged in illegal activities, and also UDI. We have notified you of this. We know that some people buy properties strategically, because they know there is a market for renting them out to public actors.

Mamen sees that measures taken by the public sector, particularly by Oslo municipality and Statsbygg, have had an effect. It is still not the case that the risk has disappeared, he believes.

– The criminal actors are increasingly targeting the private market, and by that I mean not only consumers, but private professional builders.

Having the Fair Play gang as watchdogs in the construction industry has proven to yield results. Nevertheless, they recently lost NOK 600,000 in public support.

– These are cuts that are quite dramatic for us. In the name of justice, it must be said that it was the previous social democratic city council that proposed the cut, which the new bourgeois city council continued.

– In the meantime, their budget had increased by about a billion in new revenue, so they certainly should have been able to afford it and give us the security to maintain the activity.

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2024-02-27 05:00:00

#Sees #workplace #crime #Neglects #construction #industry

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