Sinister cult is back luring victims

Evening News (England), May 15, 2003

A charity linked to a sinister cult has started recruiting again in Norwich — more than three years after the Evening News first exposed its operation.

The Tvind organisation places adverts in local newspapers and takes to the streets in a bid to lure volunteers by claiming to offer charity work for Aids victims in Malawi and Mozambique.

The Danish-based cult gets people to pay for their own flights out to Scandinavia for a “six month training programme” before packing them off to the needy countries.

But many volunteers claim the organisation attempts to brainwash them into working for free — including begging on the streets of Europe — while cashing in on their labour.

A concerned father from Norwich spotted the latest advert which had been unwittingly placed in Friday’s Evening News.

The man, who asked not to be named, said his 20-year-old daughter had responded to a similar advert because she wanted to do a gap year before going to university.

But fortunately he researched the organisation and discovered its sinister motives before she flew out.

He said: “My daughter spotted an advert and was thinking about going, but luckily I found out about them.

“There are lots of parents who have children want to take gap years. When these people advertise they normally put adverts in the papers and have kids out on the streets. It is very worrying for parents.”

The Evening News first investigated the cult two years ago when we revealed the plight of Adrian Middleton who walked out on the group after he feared it was brainwashing him.

He was exposed to the group at a UK training college linked to Tvind where recruits were not allowed any free time in the outside world and spent their days fundraising and listening to talks from tutors.

Mr Middleton became more concerned when he was flown out to Malawi to take part in “humanitarian work,” but instead spent his time packing clothes to be sold to market traders.

He said he was surprised and angry that the cult had again tried to recruit in Norwich and said he did not want to see them on our streets again.

In 2001 we also reported how a couple from Norwich cancelled their flights to Denmark at the last minute after learning of the cult’s backround.

Richard and Desiree Parfitt telephoned the Danish Embassy in London and were told Tvind were under investigation and the owners had fled to Britain.

Since the Evening News first exposed Tvind, its leader Amdi Petersen has been under investigation by Danish authorities.

Last year Mr Peterson was arrested in the USA under charges of tax evasion and was later extradited to Denmark.

His case is currently going through the courts in his home country.

The Charities Commission advises people looking to go overseas to do voluntary work to contact them for details on reputable charities.

The office is open between 8.30am and 6pm between Monday and Friday and can be contacted on 0870 333 0123.

A spokeswoman for the charity which placed the advert, Stina Herberg, said it was wrong to claim it was a dangerous cult and people claiming to have been brainwashed should not be taken seriously.

She said: “Yes I can understand the parents’ concern. I went as a volunteer to Mozambique myself when I was 21 years old and I can assure you my parents were not too thrilled.”

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Religion News Blog posted this on Friday May 16, 2003.
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