OSLO — Norwegian police arrested one of Norway’s wealthiest people on Tuesday and charged him with murdering his missing wife, the latest twist in a case that has riveted the country for more than 18 months.
The man, Tom Hagen, 70, was charged with killing his wife, Anne-Elizabeth Hagen, who disappeared 18 months ago from her home in a quiet suburb near Oslo, the Norwegian capital. Her body has not yet been found, but investigators have suggested for almost a year that Ms. Hagen may have been killed.
When news of Ms. Hagen’s disappearance first broke in January 2019, police said she had been kidnapped, and demands had been made for a hefty ransom, paid in cryptocurrency. Authorities now believe the kidnapping was fabricated.
“We now believe there was no abduction and that there were never any genuine negotiations,” for a ransom, Norway’s East police district said in a statement. “In other words, we believe that there was a clear and well-planned attempt at misleading the police.”
Mr. Hagen is the founder and owner of Elkraft, an electricity company, and his real estate holdings include a large stake in a popular ski resort.
Mr. Hagen’s lawyer, Svein Holden, told the Norwegian newspaper VG that his client denies the charges.
“He finds it hard to be accused of something he has nothing to do with,” Mr. Holden said after visiting the police station where Mr. Hagen will be held while police search his home, car and office for evidence.
“I am in shock,” said Tom Nilsen, a friend of Mr. Hagen, speaking to Norwegian national broadcaster TV2. “I would not in my wildest fantasies have thought the case would take this turn.”
The police said they plan to interrogate Mr. Hagen, to find Ms. Hagen’s body and to determine whether other people were involved in her disappearance. Mr. Hagen will have a court hearing on Wednesday to determine if the police can detain him for four weeks.
The arrest is an unexpected twist in a case that has yielded few leads. The investigation — publicly, at least — seemed to hinge on an anonymous ransom note left at Mr. Hagen’s home, demanding an equivalent of around $10 million dollars in cryptocurrency in exchange for Ms. Hagen’s safe return.
The police publicized Ms. Hagen’s disappearance a few months after she went missing on the morning of Halloween, an apparent appeal for help from the public. The family announced the following month that they were willing to initiate negotiations with the alleged kidnappers. Though the police later reported making contact with Ms. Hagen’s captors on various occasions, they said they were offered no proof of life.
Ostentatious shows of wealth are rare in Norway, and people there are generally proud of the country’s egalitarian spirit. But the abduction of Ms. Hagen has prompted a debate over an element of that culture: the legal requirement that every person’s tax return be made public, which some fear could turn the rich into targets.