It all started one Saturday morning when Jarl Syvertsen, a 59-year-old disabled Norwegian man, purchased a PC, TVs, and washing machines for 80,000 kroner (roughly US$13,000) which he paid in cash. The store immediately alerted the police about the large cash payment. On Sunday a male and a female police officer appeared on Mr Syvertsen’s doorstep. Upon seeing them, Mr. Syvertsen at first feared that something may have happened to his mother, who is 86 years old and resides in a nursing home. But the police were there with a warrant to search his home, charging that the cash he had spent was money that “came from a criminal offense.” In fact, the money was actually part of an approximately one-million dollar advance on an inheritance he had received. Mr. Syvertsen attempted several times to explain to the officers where the money had come from and to show them a letter confirming that fact, but they would have none of it and proceeded to invade his home and his privacy. Eventually the police realized their error and left his home.
Although the police now admit that they investigated Mr. Syvertsen prior to the warrant being issued and found that he had never been implicated in any criminal activity, they insist that “there were reasonable grounds to suspect” criminal activity given the “sum of the information available,” that is, the large cash payment. As Mr. Syvertsen points out, however, had the police waited until Monday, the matter could have been resolved “in a single phone call to the bank.” But the police are unrepentant and have the unmitigated gall to lecture law abiding citizens against carrying large sums of cash on their persons for their own safety–against private thugs, not police thugs of course. According to acting station commander Jarle Kolstad:
It is far safer to pay such large amounts [with] cards than to go with 80,000 [kroner] in cash on the body. Not because you risk getting the police at the door [really?], but because it is safer to use the cards. . . .
Mr Syvertsen’s reply to such self-serving nonsense?
It’s not stamped on my forehead that I have 80,000 [kroner] on the inside pocket, so I judge [it] as quite safe. Besides, I have previously experienced not [being able to] pay because payment terminals are down. Therefore, I chose to pay with cash, and there is no prohibition [against it] in Norwegian law. . . .
In the aftermath of this egregious home invasion, Mr. Syvertsen is suing the police for compensation. In the meantime, his experience with such lawless and arbitrary police conduct makes him feel unsafe in his own home and leaves him wondering “How low the threshold is supposed to be for police to intrude into private homes”? Well Mr. Syvertsen,as in the case of any government war against its own people (e.g., the War on Drugs, the War on Terror etc.) the threshold is very low indeed.
HT to Vegard Notnaes.
Joseph Salerno [send him mail] is academic vice president of the Mises Institute, chairman of the graduate program in economics at Pace University, and editor of the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics.