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– This was money on the streets for me – E24

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– This was money on the streets for me – E24

The hotel owner explains himself in court and believes the investment was completely risk-free.

Hotel billionaire Petter Stordalen in the Oslo district court where the state believes he has evaded several hundred million in tax. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTBPublished:

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The tax authorities believe that hotel king Petter Stordalen owes over NOK 200 million in tax. The demand comes after Stordalen in 2013 bought the company Oslo Properties, which today is called Strawberry Fields.

Stordalen has withdrawn almost NOK 800 million from Strawberry Fields without paying dividend tax. He believes he had a business motive, and that the purpose was not to take advantage of a favorable tax position. The tax authorities disagree.

This is the dispute

The background is that the owners before Petter Stordalen had spit in around NOK three billion. This money was largely lost in the takeover.

With three billion in paid-in capital, you have three billion “for good” in tax-free payments. Basically, such a tax position is carried forward if the company is sold.

The company he bought consisted only of debts of 230 million, a claim against another company worth 400 million and otherwise had no activity.

However, the right to tax-free dividends can be waived “in cases where the purpose of the purchase is to exploit the tax positions”, as the government attorney writes.

Sea view

– Super simple deal

On Tuesday afternoon, Petter Stordalen explains himself in court. He believes that the investment in what is now called Strawberry Fields was good business.

– Here we can make an investment that is completely risk-free. This was street money for me, he says.

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– If someone other than me had bought it, they would have had to assess the risk of “default” on the loan. There could be a pandemic, for example. I, on the other hand, have the opportunity to take over the hotel and the operation, continues Stordalen.

– What was your motive?, asks Stordalen’s lawyer.

– It is very rare that you have a deal that has no downside, but only upside. It was a super simple deal, he says.

– The defense forces say that it is possible to get three billion repaid without paying tax. Is it easy to earn three billion?, asks Stordalen’s lawyer.

Stordalen highlights all the interest rate hikes that have come in a short time, and says that they hit the property industry particularly hard.

– More people have breathing problems and you see bankruptcies coming. Making money is extremely difficult and losing money is extremely easy. It’s easy to get cocky and do things you shouldn’t do, says Stordalen.

– Even though many people think I take big risks, I don’t do it in my own head, he continues.

– Extremely lucrative

In the Tax Agency’s introductory presentation on Tuesday, lawyer Nils Sture Nilsson makes a point that Petter Stordalen is one of Norway’s richest people.

– The question is simply whether Stordalen only wants to buy a company with three billion in paid-up capital and very little else of importance, and in practice can withdraw tax-free dividends, and in reality avoid dividend tax for the rest of their lives, he says.

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– In that case, it is an extremely simple recipe that many of Norway’s richest people will be able to follow.

The lawyer says that Strawberry Fields now functions as a holding company under which Stordalen can enter operations.

– It is extremely beneficial and extremely lucrative to have Strawberry Fields as a holding company. When the businesses start making money, it is possible to withdraw money tax-free afterwards, he says.

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– So a business opportunity

Stordalen’s lawyer Kaare Andreas Shetelig gave his opening speech on Monday.

– It is his subjective motive that the court must assess. And it’s kind of hard, what kind of evidence do we have? asked Shetelig, pulling out previous newspaper reports from when the acquisition was carried out. Stordalen is quoted there as the reason why he made the purchase.

Shetelig believes they show that the motive was business opportunities, and that it is unreasonable for Stordalen to tax the money he has taken out.

He referred to the tax law, and “nearly 100 years of practice”, and said that Stordalen is a “good businessman” who saw an opportunity in 2013.

– He didn’t buy to get a share position, but he saw a business opportunity, he said.

He believes the Tax Agency is trying to change the law by collecting the money.

– The way to do this is to go to the Storting and change the law, said Shetelig.

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Stordalen will not pay tax claims: – He saw a business opportunity

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