FACTFILE - AMDI PETERSEN
9th January 1939 - Born in Ringe on the island of Fyn, central Denmark, son of a teacher.
1961 - Graduates from Haderslev teacher training college.
1961-1962 - Army service.
1963-1965 - Teacher at Kroggårdsskolen secondary school, Odense.
Appx 1965-1967 - Participant in experimental left-wing commune at 1, Hunderupvej, Odense.
1967-68 - First world tour to India, Hong Kong, Australia and Tahiti (expelled by French authorities)
1969 - Briefly arrested by German police for throwing a rock during anti-nuclear demonstration.
1970 - Founds Den Rejsende Folkehøjskole, The Travelling Folk High School (DRH), experimental school in Svendborg. School is later moved to Fano and then Tvind, near Ulfborg.
1970-1979 - Chairman of various communal bodies and directorates, effective leader of Tvind movement. Founds Teachers Group and oversees rapid expansion of school network.
1979 - Resigns from all positions within Tvind and goes underground. Registered address Skorkærvej 8, Ulfborg, but never seen in public. Said to be 'living privately abroad'.
1979-2002 - Missing years.
2001 - Named in international arrest warrant by Interpol following Danish police raids on Tvind properties.
February 2002 - Arrested by FBI at Los Angeles International Airport while en route between Africa and Mexico. Held in Kern County Jail, Bakersfield, California.
September 2002 - Extradited to Denmark to face fraud and tax evasion charges
2003-2006 - On trial with seven other Tvind leaders at district court in Aarhus, Denmark. Resident in Grindsted, western Denmark.
August 2006 - With six other defendants, found not guilty of all charges.
September 2006 - Danish public prosecutor announces appeal against not guilty verdict claiming new evidence.
October 2006 - Disappears from Denmark, believed to be in hiding in Mexico. Danish police issue request to police forces around the world to detain him.
January 2007 - New trial and appeal hearing set for August 2007.
Amdi Petersen has been the subject of much frenzied speculation since 2001 in the Danish press, and scores of articles, too numerous to catalogue - and they are anyway written in the Danish language.
The following is an English-language assessment on the eve of the trial in 2003 by one of the editors of this website, published in the Guardian newspaper.
The Guardian (9th June 2003): Enigma of the Leader. Ten years ago the Guardian first raised doubts about the Danish organisation behind a chain of used-clothes charity shops. Now Mogens Amdi Petersen, the mysterious, Svengali-like figure behind the organisation is to stand trial in a £15m fraud case. By Michael Durham
Back in 1996, when Amdi Petersen's actual whereabouts were still a secret, the Danish newspaper Ekstra Bladet led the field in asking 'where is Amdi?' It was then commonly believed Amdi was dead:
Ekstra Bladet, Denmark, (9th May 1996): Mystery Surrounds Amdi. By Kurt Simonsen
The Amdi story
Mogens Amdi Petersen, 67, was arrested by the FBI at Los Angeles International Airport on 17th February, 2002, after being more or less a fugitive for 22 years. He was picked up on an Interpol warrant alleging 'serious economic crime' and was put on trial for $25m fraud in his native Denmark.
Four years later, he is again a fugitive, having apparently fled Denmark when it was announced that the public prosecutor will appeal againt the not guilty verdict. A new trial is set for August 2007. Petersen is believed to be living in in Mexico, but was last seen in Singapore.
So who is Amdi Petersen, and why all the fuss?
He is a charismatic leader who may well be a kind of cult guru, the head of a secret body known as the Teachers Group - which claims to be a humanitarian organisation, but which has its own economic and social system. If police accusations stick, he could also turn out to be one of the world's most accomplished conmen, switching charity donations and foreign aid to private accounts.
Bespectacled Petersen started his career as a teacher in the state school at Kroggaardsskolen, Odense, in 1962. He was allegedly dismissed 'because of his long hair'. He founded the Necessary Teacher Training College and Tvind Travelling High School in 1970, but withdrew from public life in 1979.
Rumours that he was dead - or even kept drugged - turned out to be nonsense. All along, it appears, Petersen was living in luxury and jet-setting between expensive homes in the Cayman Islands, Florida, Zimbabwe, Denmark and elsewhere. Police allege he was very much alive and running his world empire personally. His diktats came from secret locations by telephone, fax and encrypted email. He travelled round the world under assumed names.
Petersen's personal charisma is supposed to have attracted a 'harem' of senior Tvind females, now themselves mostly middle-aged, known as 'Amdi's' women'. They were at his right-hand, in strong positions of authority in Tvind. Since Tvind disapproves of family life Petersen never married, but his girlfriend, Kirsten Larsen, still sticks by him.
For a while his base was a beachside villa in the tax haven Cayman Islands, in the tropical Caribbean. From the early 1990s his base was Miami. In mid-2001 he was located by the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten in Miami Beach, where Tvind had apartments and until recently kept a luxury yacht.
In 2002 he was extradited to Denmark to face trial for fraud. This trial started in 2003 and finished in August 2006 with not guilty verdicts. The Danish state will appeal and a new trial is set for August 2007.
Name: Mogens Amdi Petersen (or Pedersen)
Date of Birth: 9th January 1939
Current residence: Unknown
The hunt for Amdi, 1996-2002
The messages and excerpts that follow were sent to Tvind Alert prior to Amdi's arrest on 17th February 2002. After his release from custody in the United States, during the first trial, Petersen lived in seclusion in a luxury villa at Grindsted, Denmark, but was allowed his passport to travel. He disappeared again in late 2006 and has not returned to Denmark since.
One correspondent placed him in Zimbabwe:
"Amdi Petersen is married and well living in Zimbabwe, he is filthy rich, owns a luxury condo near Kariba lake in Zimbabwe and owns only God knows how many Mercedes. On his 50th birthday his wife gave him 10 Zebras which now are to be found at the Humana People-to-People headquarters in Zimbabwe.
Another placed him in Denmark:
You asked where Mogens Amdi Petersen lives... He lives in Jutland, near Grindsted in a luxurious villa. He has lived there for many years. This was anyway the fact a couple of years ago. Now I don't know.
He's right hand is Kirsten Larsen who has been around in the Teachers' Group for more than 20 years. Amdi has no driver's license, Kirsten always drives their car. It has been decided in a common meeting, that he will never appear anywhere alone, as he believes himself that there is a big risk for him to be killed. Kirsten is always together with him.
Of course they both spend a lot of time travelling around and checking how the different projects are going around. The biggest project of the Teacher's group is the project in Brazil (exactly where it is I don't know), where they are busy cutting down the rain forest and making money by selling wood.....
The head office of Humana / UFF / DAPP / ADPP is nowadays in Zimbabwe. (Inaugurated by e.g. Robert Mugabe, a fan of the cult since many years, as well as Sam Nujoma, the president of Namibia is.) I guess this couple (Amdi and Kirsten) is spending a lot of time at the head office as well as in Grindsted in Vejle, Jutland, Denmark.
Within the Teachers' Group it is forbidden to pronounce the name of Amdi, instead the term de andre ('the others') is used. In faxes "KLAP" is also used (Kirsten Larsen Amdi Pedersen). About him being a playboy...I don't really know if that is really the truth...but I don't know...
'In Denmark he sells Christmas trees to Swiss directors from his well protected video and rottweiller-guarded private home, address Plagborgvej 8, Grindsted (Dk-Jutland).' [Danish press report]
The Population Register states that he lives in a house at Skovkaervej 6, Tvind, 6990 Ulfborg. Until 1994 he lived at Skovkaervej 12. Both houses are on the Tvind Corporation's land. Amdi has not set foot in either house for the last ten years. [Ekstra Bladet]
According to the Danish tabloid newspaper Ekstra Bladet, Amdi broke with his father 25 years ago and has not spoken with him since.
Click here to read Ekstra Bladet's story 'Mystery Surrounds Amdi'
Mogens Amdi Petersen 'flees to England'
Officially - although he never lived there - Amdi Petersen was registered on the address Skorkærvej 8 in Ulfborg-Vemb, where the big schoolcenter is located. Skorkærvej 8 is the official address for a lot of top-people from Teachers Group.
"While the 'students' of the Danish Tvind-group are used as slaves on the clothing-sorting centres of Humana, founder and 'guru' Amdi Petersen enjoys the good life. "He is surrounded by a harem. Seven or eight women he has, who are all longing for his favours. Valuable villas and hotels all over the world, Mercedes, fancy clothes. Shortly after I have quit, me and some other ex-members have calculated how much money the concern must have. At a billion guilders, we stopped counting...."
"....How successful was the business on Grand Cayman? "Petersen owned a huge villa there," the former Tvind-teacher states. "I remember a couple of Tvind-teachers running away there. They had to dig a swimming pool. The existing pool was smaller than that of the neighbours and Petersen did not like that."
[Patricia Brunklaus, quoted in Rotterdams Dagblad, 1995]
Steen Thomsen, a former Teachers' Group member, writes:
We, myself included, [were] for years trained to never disclose the power structure of the Teachers' Group. Since 1978, Mr. Amdi Petersen has been hiding from the press. This happened after the disclosure of some of his documents stating his intentions of creating a revolution in Denmark, also expanding this to other parts of the world.
Since 1978, he has had a number of hiding places all over the world. For instance, Cayman Island, Florida, St.Vincent and other places. This hiding is part of his building up an image of mysticism and power. The Danish press are chasing him, and I presume that he will soon be "captured". This will be a good thing; in fact, although he is extremely charismatic and radiating a strange kind of power, I feel sure that it will be a beneficial experience for the viewers to see him collapsing into the lousy human being he is and no more being the fantastic person he is still making the TG believe he is.
He still is kind of a God, and it has taken me years to try and get rid of my respect for his power. Luckily, now I see him only as a lousy scab. But don't be mistaken: compared with Mr Moon or Fidel Castro, Amdi Petersen is far ahead.
It has meant a lot for my understanding that I have now met especially quite a number of the women he has held as his private possessions. Their stories are frightening: they have been abused for years, without communicating across from female to female about their hopeless situation. Remember, I have been working together with the Tvind cooperation almost since its start, and I know all the people in leading positions. (I refer to some of those who have now left and who have been abused).
As a former headmaster of Tvind schools (1980-1998) I have been in meetings with Amdi Petersen at least once every second month. He is still controlling all finances and he is the only person who really decides what new actions for the Teachers' Group to take. Yes, the leaders are so absolutely hiding Amdi Petersen´s existence and presence from their recruits. If you ask [a Tvind member] about Mr. Petersen, I will bet the answer is: "Yes, I know Mr. Petersen. He is a very skilled person who many years ago inspired other people to join a new kind of folk high schools, starting the Tvind schools in Denmark, but today he means just about nothing. He is getting old, and he has been ill for many years."
Apart from him being older all the rest is rubbish and a lie. The person who tells this has presumably been attending a meeting a week ago somewhere, in Florida or in Zimbabwe or in Denmark, under his leadership. This was exactly what I did myself, and I know that nothing has really changed since I was a member myself, definitely not re power structures.