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Catholic Church in Norway ordered to pay $5.1 million for fraud

By Andrew V. Pestano
Catholic Church in Norway ordered to pay $5.1 million for fraud
The Trefoldighetskirken [Holy Trinity Church] in Oslo, Norway. The diocese is appealing a claim by city officials that the church pay $5.1 million in compensation for participating in fraud practices. File Photo by joyfull/Shutterstock

OSLO, Norway, July 1 (UPI) -- The Catholic Church is appealing a claim from government officials in Oslo, Norway that the church pay $5.1 million in compensation for participating in fraudulent practices.

The Oslo diocese, its bishop and its financial officer are accused of fraudulently registering thousands of people on its membership lists as to receive greater subsidies from the government.

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Norway, predominantly Protestant, permits religious organizations to apply for and receive federal subsidies based on their membership amounts.

The Olso diocese registered about 65,500 new members between 2010 and 2014 and more than 56,500 people of that total were registered under disputed methods, according to Olso government officials. The diocese received more than $6 million in national subsidies during that time.

The church is accused of using telephone catalogs to look for Polish or Spanish names and then tracking down their resident registration numbers in Norway before registering them as members of the church without their consent.

The church's offices were raided in February on suspicion of "aggravated fraud."

Lisa Wade, acting administrative leader of the diocese, recently said "we have a completely different understanding [of the law] than the [county governor]," adding that the case is "legally complicated."

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