Defence lawyer Kristen Sverre Fari on his way to the first custody meeting for the 11 charged in the Lime case. Photo: Heiko Junge / NTB scanpix
11 people arrested after Lime Minipris - one of Norway's biggest food store chains - was raided on Monday, will be remanded in custody for a month on Thursday police hope, as their investigations continue.
Police want the accused to remain in custody for up to four weeks as police fear evidence connected with the case will be lost or tampered with.
Police inspector Åsmund Yli said to NTB on Wednesday: “All of them have been requested to be imprisoned in custody for four weeks without permission to receive letters, visitors or access to media as well as isolation.”
Due to the scale and seriousness of the case, the custodial meetings in Nedre Romerike district court, Lillestrøm, will take place simultaneously in three different court rooms.
On Tuesday, 17 people were arrested in a large police operation in several places in Norway. In addition, two people were also arrested on Wednesday. One for assisting human trafficking, the other for destroying evidence related to the case. Police will evaluate whether the two arrested on Wednesday will also be presented for custodial remand.
All together 20 people have been charged in the case so far. Lime CEO Sajjad Hussain, 37, is already in jail awaiting trial for human trafficking and nine of the charged belong to the same family, reported NRK.
Several of the arrested people were charged for human trafficking and employing slave labour. Police have identified a number of people who are thought to be the victims.
Police have searched and inspected more than fifty addresses across Norway and taken suspected objects as evidence connected to the charges of serious human trafficking, tax fraud, governmental benefit fraud, loan swindling, and theft of others' identities.
Norwegian police found two witnesses to the crimes from Pakistan and has given them witness protection and promise of permission to stay in Norway if they assist the case, said NRK.
Police officers were for a short time in Pakistan and traced at least one person who was forced to work in one or several of the Lime stores in the south-east of Norway, according to TV2.
The witness now receives police protection for the safety of that person's life.
Lene Tønset, lawyer of two Pakistanis, victims exposed to slave labour at the Lime stores, did not wish to comment on the case, but said: "They are no longer in the situation that they have been in and doing much better now.”
Police has seized hundreds of thousands of kroner in connection to the Lime raid.
Police inspector Åsmund Yli said: “We've already found things we think will have great significance as evidence in the case. We have uncovered several stashes of money, totalling hundreds of thousands [of kroner].”
Defence lawyer of Lime CEO Sajjad Hussain, John Christian Elden, has reacted strongly on the police's proceedings on the case.
Elden said to NTB on Wednesday: “Police has kept [Sajjad Hussain] from being able to comment on the accusations that they set against him in a press conference. It is horrendous and I know [Hussain] strongly denies the accusations.”