A Norwegian billionaire whose 69-year-old wife was believed to have been kidnapped in 2018 is behind bars Tuesday for complicity in her alleged murder, Norwegian police said.
Real-estate tycoon Tom Hagen, 70, called authorities on Oct. 31, 2018, when he said he found a ransom note demanding $10 million in cryptocurrency Monero in the en suite bathroom he shared with his wife, Anne-Elizabeth Falkevik Hagen. The note, riddled with spelling mistakes, warned that Mrs. Hagen would be murdered if he called authorities, but he said he took the risk and he did so anyway.
The remote home the couple shared showed no signs of forced entry, but police at the time said there was considerable forensic evidence from what appeared to be a struggle in the couple’s bedroom. In 2019, they mused that perhaps Mrs. Hagen had been hiding there from kidnappers who found her alone in the home.
At the time of his wife’s disappearance, Hagen was involved in a lawsuit against a consulting company called Pareto and a Russian consultant who represented the steel company Severstal over an alleged accounting scandal that cost Hagen and a business partner more than $4 million. That case is still unresolved.
The police then asked Hagen, the 164th richest person in Norway with a fortune estimated at 1.9 billion Norwegian kroner (or $183 million), to keep the kidnapping quiet for 10 full weeks while they investigated the alleged crime. Finally, in January 2019, they announced the kidnapping and asked the public for help. “Our main theory is that the victim was kidnapped by unidentified perpetrators at her home,” Chief Detective Tommy Brøske said at the time. “We have no proof she is alive, but we haven’t received any indication that she isn’t alive either.”
On Tuesday, Hagen was arrested on his way to work and remanded in custody on charges including murder or accessory to murder.
Police now believe Hagen murdered his wife—or arranged for her offing—before setting up the elaborate kidnapping hoax, Brøske said Tuesday. Mrs. Hagen’s body has never been found but a nearby pond and other areas near the couple’s home were searched again this week.
“The case is characterized by a clearly planned deception,” Brøske told reporters in Oslo on Tuesday. “As other hypotheses have been weakened, suspicions against Tom Hagen have gradually been strengthened.”
Aase Kjustad Eriksson, the investigating prosecutor in the case, said they would ask to keep Hagen in custody for a four-week pretrial phase. He said Hagen “had traces of a clear, premeditated misdirection” to kill his wife and did not rule out other arrests.