Man was promised drug treatment in Africa. Claims he ended up as a drug addict on a pig farm in Nairobi.
The 21-year-old thought he was to receive treatment for his substance abuse problems at Stiftelsen Ordet (Foundation the Word) in Kenya. He says that he instead ended up as an abuser on a pig farm outside of Nairobi.
– It was a nightmare from start to end. A sickening experience, the man tells VG.
December 14, 2012, the man described as a notorious criminal is presented before the court in a city in Western Norway. The police have found stolen items in his apartment, and ask for detention for three weeks due to hazard of repetition.
Then this occurs: during the detention hearing, a telephone is placed in the courtroom. Per Svendsen, chairperson of the ‘Foundation the Word’ in Bergen, is called, and over speakerphone is given the opportunity to present the Foundation’s treatment plan in Kenya to the judge, prosecutor and defense lawyer.
In the court journal from the district court, this is mentioned regarding the special séance:
Confirmed that a place was available
– During the last week, the detained have obtained a treatment place in Kenya through ‘Foundation the Word’. The accused stated in court that he wanted and was motivated for treatment through the foundation. By way of explanation from the general manager, Svendsen, the court has received a description of the treatment that will be employed, and Svendsen has also confirmed that there is a place available for the accused.
In December last year, VG revealed that the family-run ‘Foundation the Word’ has earned millions of kroner by sending drug addicts and Kenyans out on the street with collection boxes
The Norwegian Lottery and Foundation Commission deposed the entire board of the foundation last autumn, and later reported the three members of the family that constituted the board to the police. The Foundation’s values have also been impounded.
Five years after the decision of the district court in 2012, VG meets the man in a prison in Western Norway. He serves a sentence of eighteen months in prison for drug and economic crimes.
It never is many days without him thinking back on the five months he spent at the Foundation’s Pigs Farm in one of Nairobi’s slums.
Met outside a mall
– My mother met Per Svendsen outside a store in the autumn of 2012. At this time, I was doped out of my mind, and during the conversation, Per convinced her that the foundation’s scheme in Kenya could help me, says the man, who is now 26 years old.
When the man visited his mother a few weeks later, plans were already made for the man to travel to Kenya.
– When I entered the living room, Per Svendsen was there. He said that I was going to Africa, he says.
VG has sent Per Svendsen a number of questions regarding the farm in Kenya, through his lawyer Erlend Øen. The lawyer replies the following in a text message:
– Per Svendsen has no comments regarding the e-mail.
Went on his own, with no money
On December 21, 2012, the man was on the plane to Nairobi. Alone, with no money, bank card or mobile phone.
– At the airport in Nairobi, I was picked up by a Kenyan who presented himself as an overseer of the foundation’s pig farm. He drove me to the farm and showed me a room where I was to live together with a Kenyan, he says in this interview with VG.
The man says he started to feel uncomfortable right away.
– I thought that this is completely sick. The farm was very poor. The toilet was a hole in the ground and the shower was a hole beneath a water tank where rainwater was collected. In the kitchen there was few things that worked. I also could not speak much English at the time, but Per said that everything would be taken care of.
The mother tells VG that she paid several thousands of Norwegian kroner to the foundation to finance her son’s stay in Kenya. Additionally, she paid for the plane tickets.
The arrangement looked all right
– When you have a child who is and addict and feels that you are fighting for him to be treated, this arrangement looked all right, she says.
She claims that Per Svendsen had promised to follow her son on the trip to Nairobi. In an email to her son’s defense lawyer, sent on December 18, 2012, she writes:
– Vaccines are already arranged and they are ready to receive him in Kenya. I have talked to Per Svendsen from the organization confirming that he can travel on Friday morning from Sola airport to Kenya returning on Sunday.
The man says it took three weeks before he “landed” and came to the grips in Kenya. The first thing he thought was to get high, he says.
– In the Mathare slum I got hold of alcohol. Since I did not have money, I had to steal. Once I went to a store where I knew there was a collection box. I told the woman behind the counter that I was to pick up the box and took it with me. I used the money to buy pills and hash.
At other occacions, he garnished money by stealing vegetables from the farm that he then sold at a local market, he says.
Was high almost every day
– How often were you high down there?
– I started about a month after I arrived. J I was very mentally unstable during the stay, and at the beginning I got high three times a week on average. Eventually it got worse, and at the end I was high almost every day.
He realizes that he took a high risk by committing offenses in an African country.
– It could have turned out very badly if the police had apprehended me for the sale or use of drugs. But luckily that never happended.
He says that the food they received at the farm was very bad.
– We ate mostly maize meal, rice and beans. In the freezer there was meat that Per had bought at the local market, but the foreman used to unplug the freezer at night to save power, so the meat turned bad. Still, we had to eat it. It was absolutely terrible.
According to the 26-year-old, it took six weeks before he saw hide or hair of Per Svendsen in Kenya.
– Then he came with the whole family. They lived in an apartment Per had access to a couple of days before everyone went to Mombasa. It seemed as if they were on vacation. This happened once more while I was there. A third time, Per came alone.
Characterized by idleness
The man says that the stay on the farm was characterized by idleness and few regular chores.
– There was something strange about the whole scheme. There was nothing reminiscent of rehabilitation.
– Several times we were taken to local churches. During a service, I had to make a confession, that Per filmed. There were 300 listeners in the church, and I felt coerced to speak. It was uncomfortable. Another time we went into the slum and talked about Jesus using a loudspeaker.
In addition to the caretaker, a local man was paid to watch over and feed the pigs, says the 26-year-old. Some of the other Kenyans who were at the farm were drug addicts, others not, he says.
– Did you work at the farm?
– Hardly. Sometimes we plowed the soil and planted potatoes, corn and vegetables. But the farm itself Per had other people to take care of. I idled for the most part.
Ended up in jail after returning home
After five months, he decided to go home to Norway. In his hometown he quickly returned to abusing drugs big time.
– I stayed at a hospits after a short stay with my mother. After a month, I was detained once more, and since then I have been in and out of jail.
The Foundation’s annual accounts for 2014, state that the Foundation is engaged in direct rehabilitation and aftercare of drug addicts, both in Norway and in Nairobi. The farm in Kenya has been sold, and after what VG has been informed, the Tax Authority in Bergen now investigates the circumstances surrounding the sale.
The 26-year-old describes the stay in Africa as a nightmare.
– I had absolutely no benefit from the stay at the farm. I felt like a poor boy from the slums while I was there. It was a sickening experience.
On May 31, 2013 – shortly after returning from Nairobi – the man is indicted in his hometown. In the ruling, the court states that his stay in Kenya has not been of any help.
– The Court places particular emphasis on the fact that, despite his stay in Africa, the indicted does not seem to have been rid of his substance abuse problem and that this leads to other crimes to fund his abuse.
A month later, on June 28, he was detained again after committing more offenses. In the ruling, the court writes:
– Despite release from custody in order to carry out five months of drug treatment in Kenya, where he also states that he has remained free of abuse, he commits crimes of the same kind and character as he committed prior to custody and subsequent drug treatment just days after returning to Norway.
Prosecutor: Had to make space in prison
Police attorney Vivild Bredal in the South West police district was the prosecutor during the prison meeting in December 2012. She says that the man was released from custody to free up a space in custody.
– At the time there was a lot of pressure on custody places. The police chose to imprison another person, which we thought it was more important to keep in custody, therefore the man was released before the custody period was ended.
Stian Eskeland was the defender of the man during the prison meeting in December 2012. Eskeland, who is now a prosecutor in the South-Western police district, says that the arrangement as presented by Per Svendsen seemed good.
– The philosophy was that the abusers were to work on the farm and become drug-free by not having access to drugs, he says.
According to Eskeland, Per Svendsen gave a positive impression when he presented his scheme in court.
Defense lawyer: – Wanted out of prison
– To my client, it was alluring to go to a farm in Kenya, rather than spend Christmas in custody. And my job as a defense lawyer was to get him out of custody, says Eskeland.
VG has talked to a man who was at the pig farm in Nairobi at the time as the 26-year-old. He does not want to be interviewed by VG, but says he had benefited greatly from the stay with the Foundation
Three years ago, a former drug addict stepped to the fore in a newspaper in Eastern Norway to tell about his stay at ‘Foundation the Word’. About his two trips to Africa, the newspaper wrote:
– Together with “the boys” he has been on a safari at Masai Mara, dived in the Indian Ocean, held crocodile and python snakes in Mombasa and lived at the farm that the Foundation owns in Kenya.The farm is run by Kenyan boys who need help to get out of substance abuse.
© VG / Norway Today