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Association, mosque |  Rabita's million-dollar revenue has not been reported

Association, mosque | Rabita's million-dollar revenue has not been reported

Rabeta Mosque, located in central Oslo, is perhaps Norway's most famous mosque.

Netavisen recently revealed that the mosque had violated the accounting law. Rabita did not submit accounts for many years, at the same time that the mosque had such large assets that it had to submit accounts to the Brønnøysund registry.

Nettavisen also examined the currency register, which contains information about transactions inside and outside Norway. The inspection revealed transfers from various countries to the mosque worth several million kroner in the years 2018-2023. According to several tax experts Netavsen spoke to, these donations should have been included in the accounts.

These cash gifts may be taxable, according to Associate Professor Eivind Foruseth in the Department of Law and Governance at BI University.

“I assume we're going to be talking about gross tax evasion here,” Foruseth says.

Nettavisen asked Rabita to comment on Furuseth's criticism. The mosque did not respond to the inquiry.

He has property worth 60 million

Rabita currently owns real estate worth at least NOK 60 million, distributed among various companies linked to the mosque. Nettavisen obtained the information from the Mapping Authority.

They have properties from Alta to Sandefjord:

  • Real estate company System Invest AS, a subsidiary of Rabita, owns four properties.
  • Torggt 12 AS, a subsidiary of System Invest, includes a mosque in Horten.
  • The Amana Foundation, established by the association in 2014, includes eight properties.

How real estate is financed is unclear.

As the currency register shows, the association received millions of kroner from donors in countries such as Kuwait and Sweden. However, they will not reveal the identity of these donors or who represents them (Read Rabita's explanation at the bottom of this issue).

At the same time that the mosque acquired its property, without informing the state director or submitting accounts to the Brønnøysund registers, Rabita received significant public support.

The mosque has received over NOK 22 million in various public support over the past five years, from the State Director, the Directorate for Integration and Diversity, the Municipality of Oslo and the Ministry for Children and Families.

Millions from Kuwait and Sweden

The printout received by Nettavisen from the currency register shows several million transfers between Norway and other countries.

There is money to and from countries including Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Sweden. According to the mosque, the money that moved between Saudi Arabia, Belgium and Norway came from the Hajj travel agency run by Rabita at the mosque.

Financial contact between the Swedish Association and Sweden was particularly significant in 2019. NOK 6.1 million arrived from Sweden on these dates:

  • July 5: NOK 95,953
  • July 23: 4,843,336 NOK
  • October 17: 135,029 NOK
  • November 5: NOK 238,983
  • December 23: NOK 885,072

I won't say where the money comes from

The association writes on its website that its vision is openness and knowledge. But when Nettavisen calls them, it's not easy to get them to talk about finances and property purchases. It takes several months from the time we make contact until we get a response.

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Finally, the general director of Rabaita, Iman Al-Hasnawi, wrote in an email that the money that flowed from Sweden had a foreign source, while other funds came from groups in Swedish mosques.

The first amount, 4.8 million, came to support the purchase of a property in another city. They came from a donor abroad and were delivered through an official channel in Sweden, Al-Hasnawi wrote in an email.

The other amounts came from a fundraising campaign carried out by Rabita in several mosques in Sweden.

But Al-Hasnawi did not mention the names of the mosques or donors in question. In the report submitted by the Association to the State Director regarding the request for religious support in 2019, NOK 614,328 in gifts were entered under “Gifts and contributions from members”.

Donations and property trading are also not reported to Statsforvalter.

System Invest AS features

  • Calmeyers Gate 8. Purchased in 2004 for NOK 20 million
  • Condominium, sections 1 and 2, Eldervigen 10, Kungsvinger. This includes parking. Bought for a total of 6.3 million in 2022.
  • Torgata 12, Horten. Owned by Torggt 12 AS, a subsidiary of System Invest. There is no information on the purchase price.

Source: The basic book sheet for each property

A lady in Kuwait and a mosque in Horten

But Bassem Ghazlan from Rabita told Nettavisen that about 6.1 million people from Sweden went to buy the Torggt 12 property in Horten.

Ghizlan is a member of all the boards of directors of Rabaa companies, and is also Chairman of the Board of Directors of the real estate company System Invest AS, which owns Torggt 12 AS. He often talks about the mosque's activities to the media, but he does not speak up when it comes to finances.

Ghazlan refuses to meet one of Netavisin's journalists. The journalist coming to the mosque is asked not to take pictures or record the conversation, which is standard practice to ensure the quality of quotes.

The meeting in the mosque will be very short. Ghazlan says that the money came through the Kuwaiti embassy in Stockholm, and that the source is a woman in Kuwait.

– A woman sent a donation through a recognized organization, which in turn sent the amount through the embassy in Stockholm. He says the money was transferred from account to account and was used to buy a property in Horten.

What recognized organization is in question or who recognized it, Ghazlan does not want to say. He also won't say the woman's name.

– It is common that some donors do not want to be recognized. They wish to remain anonymous. Ghazlan says that the woman visited the property and made sure that the money was used in the correct way.

The mosque was supposed to open this fall. The meeting was attended by a representative of the Kuwaiti ambassador, according to Ghazlan. Horten Mayor Cristina Maria Pratelli (AFP) was also present, Netavicin has learned. However, Pratley will not comment on the matter.

Today, the building in Horten is used by the Horten Islamic Centre. They don't want to talk to Nettavisen.

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– Gross tax evasion

Donations usually have to be entered in the accounts, says associate professor and department head Finn Kinserdal at the Norwegian School of Economics.

– He says this comes from the standard of good accounting practice for non-profit organizations.

What they submitted “is consistent with the Accounting Code and good accounting practices,” Rabita writes in the accounts they submitted to the state director.

But donations must also be taxed.

The Norwegian tax agency Nettavisen has informed that donations related to business activities are subject to tax.

– If donations or gifts are linked to economic activity, they will still be tax-free when the turnover of this activity does not exceed NOK 70,000 in the year of income, says Department Head Lene M. Ringså at the Tax Agency in Nettavisen.

Donations to the Association, as described above, are well above this limit.

The tax liability is clear, believes Associate Professor Eivind Foruseth at BI's Department of Law and Governance.

– If there is operating income in the company, it is rent and economic activity, and it should be taxed, Foruseth tells Nettavisen.

-So I think donations should be taxed.

Rabita's real estate subsidiary System Invest has operating income. Foruseth further says that the fact that the mosque did not declare the 6 million for taxes can be described as a total tax fraud.

The penalty for gross tax evasion is a fine or imprisonment for up to six years, he says, referring to Article 379 of the Penal Code.

Netavisen asked Hasnawi and Ghazlan to comment on this. They did not respond to the inquiry.

Compares with Holmenkollen Church

Netavisen Rabita asked why foreign donors would want to fund mosques and properties in Norway.

Muslims in Norway need places to meet their religious and social needs. Foreign donors are among those who help us realize dreams. Helping is a long tradition among Muslims – and non-Muslims, says General Manager Iman Al-Hasnawi at Rabita to Nettavisen.

She also writes that the Amanah Foundation aims to help congregations in mosques. Al-Hasnawi compares this to the rebuilding of Holmenkollen Church, which burned down in the 1990s.

– Nine million were collected from individuals and companies, Al-Hasnawi writes.

Princess Astrid led the group, and the municipality of Oslo and the Rotary Club were among those contributing to the reconstruction.

Al-Hasnawi claims that everything was done according to good accounting practices.

– All funding for our houses of worship, except for collections, went from the donor’s account to our account or was transferred to official channels that transferred it to us. This means that all gifts can be examined by banks, auditors and perhaps also authorities who wish to do so. We follow good accounting practices, and both our accountant and auditor ensure that donations are also kept in accordance with these practices.

But this is not true. The accounts for the last two years were handed over in December 2023, after Netavisin had been in contact with the mosque for several months. So this was a clear violation of accounting law.

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A generous man from Qatar

But it's not just Horton property buying that isn't transparent. In 2001, a man from Qatar came to the steps of the mosque in Oslo. The weather was chilling that day, so Ghazal invited him inside. The two became friends, and 13 years later, the man gave Rabita 14 million Norwegian kroner.

The episode was presented by Daily newspaper In 2020. The money was to go to a mosque in Larvik. The money was placed in a project account that was kept away from the accounts the religious community sent to the then-provincial governor when they applied for support, Dagbladet wrote.

The year Rabita received the 14 million, they set up a trust and transferred the money there. This allowed the Foundation to attack the old business school in Larvik.

– But who is this generous man who wants to buy a mosque in Larvik?

– He is a special person. He represents himself. Why contribute to Rabita? Because we bewitched him. For this reason alone, General Manager Al-Hasnawi wrote in an email to Nettavisen.

This is owned by Amanastiftelsen

  1. Altaven 91, Alta. Bought for 4.2 million in 2014. No loans.

  2. Nordal Bronze Gate 1, Drammen. Bought in 2015 for 6 million. No loans.

  3. Section 3805-3020/2781 (Car Park), Larvik. It was purchased for 3 million in 2015.

  4. Slagenveen 19, Tonsberg. 2015. No Loans. Estimated price: 4 million.

  5. Hesselbergs Gate 12, Skien. Purchased in 2015. No loans.

  6. Rådhusgata 1, Sandefjord. Bought in 2015 for 4.2 million. No loans.

  7. Reidar Teigens vei 2, Larvik. The cost is 17 million Norwegian kroner. 2018. No Loans.

  8. Section 3805-3020/2612 (Park/Forest), Larvik. Purchased 2018. No mortgage information.

Source: The basic book sheet for each property

Planning to build a new mosque in Oslo

Rabita has big plans for the future.

Today the Association Mosque is located in an old residential building next to the Jewish Museum in Oslo. But there is not enough space there. That's why they are raising money to build a new mosque. In the winter of 2023, they got the green light to build a new one. This is after the Planning and Building Agency rejected a building application for the first time. Rabita real estate company System Invest AS complained.

The City Council reviewed the Planning and Building Agency's denial in keeping with Rabita's complaint. The City Council's recommendation was adopted unanimously.

The deputy mayor at the time, Abdullah Al-Subaih (AFP), told the newspaper Our Oslo It is exciting to build a mosque as a cultural center.

– Al-Sabeeh said: – It is important for many religious communities to build modern, multi-functional buildings that are open to everyone.

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