Tvind

About Tvind / Teachers Group

Tvind, also known as the Teachers Groups, is an organization founded in Denmark in the 60’s by Mogens Amdi Petersen.

Since then, Tvind has grown into a “$100 million labyrinth of charities and for-profit companies spanning some 55 countries.” 1

Meanwhile Mogens Amdi Petersen has become an international fugitive wanted for embezzlement and tax evasion.

Reveal says

You know those Planet Aid clothing donation boxes you see on the side of the road? Those clothes and over $130 million in U.S. grant money are supposed to help people in southern Africa.

But when Reveal went to Malawi to find out what actually happened, people told us that some of the projects didn’t pan out.

Our investigation finds that the U.S. government knew an international fugitive was linked to the projects, but kept the money flowing.

Alternative Names, Front Groups

Operating names include (but are not limited to) the following:

  • Teachers Group
  • Humana People-to-People
  • Planet Aid
  • Campus California TG
  • The Institute for International Cooperation and Development, IICD (USA & Canada)
  • International Education Co-operation (China)
  • One World Volunteer Institute (Norway)
  • KwaZulu Natal Experimental College (S Africa)
  • DAPP
  • UFF
  • NetUp
  • The College for International Cooperation and Development
  • CICD (UK)
  • Green World Recycling
  • The Gaia-movement Trust
  • Yunnan Institute of Development (China)
  • The Travelling Folk High School
  • The Necessary Teacher Training College
  • and more

The organization has been accused of being a cult due in part to the way its volunteer workforce is treated.

What is Tvind?

Every Dane is familiar with Tvind. But exactly what is it? I find that this is not an easy question to anwer.

One of Denmark’s television journalists, Thomas Stockholm, who has made the most extensive documentaries on Tvind, tells me: “There is not one definition. I would say it is a cult, it’s a political organisation, even a charitable organisation. It’s a chameleon. And at the same time they grow bigger and bigger.”

Accused of being a cult, Tvind is now facing allegations of embezzling millions of pounds worth of public money.

Tvind started in the 60s as a group of radical young teachers.

The organisation derived its strength, particularly in the early days, from a unique provision in the Danish constitution that allows any organisation to run a school – and the state finances these schools.

Tvind started lots of schools across Denmark.

Tvind functions along classic communal lines. At the centre of the organisation are the teachers – forming a sort of political cadre, who share not only their ideals and their time, but also their incomes.

The Tvind communal financial pot is used to fund a wide range of “good causes” and commercial concerns around the world. Over time, as Tvind grew and diversified, funds were merged and diverted into a complicated internal market. Projects include fighting Aids in Africa, commercial plantations in South America and second-hand clothes businesses wherever there is a market for them.

Yet Tvind is an organisation of stark contrasts. From early flower-power sensitivities in Denmark grew a global Tvind empire, a network of business-cum-charitable concerns whose stated aims were to “do good”, to “make the world a better place” but which are also motivated by profit.
– Source: Denmark’s Tvind, BBC, Mar. 21, 2002. Audio version broadcasting by BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 21st March 2002

Cult Allegations

A number of people who have been involved in Tvind accuse the enterprise of cult-like practices.

Steen [Thomsen] joined Tvind as a radically-minded student in the early 70s. Inspired by Maoist philosophies, he and his comrades set out on inspirational travels across the Third World…

“I thought it was all about freedom”, Steen says. “But I was wrong. I had joined a cult and I was being trained to follow its orders. My experience with Tvind ended up being about anything but freedom”.

Steen Thomsen dedicated most of his life to the organisation, and like many others, Steen gave all his money – inheritance, savings and earnings.

Now, Steen is one of the few former Tvind insiders to go public. After making his “escape” from Tvind, he delivered a testimony to the Danish government about his time in the group, detailing the psychological pressure and verbal abuse of Amdi Petersen, the founder of Tvind.
– Source: Denmark’s Tvind, BBC, Mar. 21, 2002. Audio version broadcasting by BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 21st March 2002


Numerous people involved with Tvind have quit the group, accusing Tvind of mental coercion and intimidation, and there have been allegations of restrictions on members’ access to outside information, such as newspapers. “Tvind is a cult or cult-like organization that takes away the individual will of those who join,” according to Zahara Heckscher, who was quoted in a 2005 LiP Magazine article, contributed by Washington Post staff writer Kari Lydersen. Heckscher, an American, attended a Tvind-run school in 1987–1988 and briefly volunteered in a Tvind program in Zambia.

Former members have described Petersen as a mesmerizing figure who possessed extraordinary ability to influence and control others. “It was the eyes,” said former Teachers Group member Britta Rasmussen in a 2002 BBC News broadcast. “He would fix you with his stare. He was a very brilliant speaker. He was like a god to us.”
[…]

Early on Tvind “set out to conquer the world,” said former member Hans la Cour, in a February 2004 Chicago Tribune story. “Their original ambition was world revolution.” Jes Møller notes in his FAQ site that years ago Tvind was suspected of having ties to the regimes of North Korea and Cuba and was under surveillance by the Danish Security and Intelligence Service.

“We don’t yet understand what the purpose of Tvind is,” offers Danish reporter Jakob Rubin, quoted in the Miami New Times story. “Yes, Mr. Petersen is trying to collect millions, but that [simple answer] is not satisfying. We believe they were trying to create an alternative economic world order.”

“They don’t have a religion,” comments former volunteer Heckscher in the same article, “but they do have an obscure political theory that no one can articulate.”

Jes Møller concurs that Tvind is not a religion, writing in his website: “It is an ideology with no hopes of an afterlife. It is very pragmatic and unromantic. Personal feelings as well as love for nature are considered disturbing elements in the correct perception of the world.”
– Source: Mysterious Danish group builds exotic compound on Baja Coastoffsite Michael Waterman, San Diego Reader, Feb. 3, 2010

Tvind’s Founder

A mysterious guru-figure and founding member of Tvind, Amdi Petersen, is alleged to be in charge of the money raised by Tvind, the “shared” money. According to estimates from Danish police documents Tvind is now worth at least 100 million pounds.

Yet, in a sinister twist, Amdi Petersen has been in hiding for 22 years.

“There’s no doubt at all about who’s at the top of Tvind”, says Britta Rasmussen. She’s another “escapee” of the Teachers’ Group, the inner sanctum of Tvind.

She tries to explain why Petersen was such a compelling leader. “It was the eyes,” she says, “he would fix you with his stare. He was a very brilliant speaker. He was like a god to us. We stopped reading newspapers. He was our only source of what was going on in the world.”

A host of Danish journalists have been on Petersen’s trail since his disappearance. In Autumn 2001 journalists linked him to a luxury penthouse in Miami – just one example of the luxurious lifestyle he is believed to have enjoyed. But Petersen remained elusive.

News of Petersen’s allies made his story even more tantalising to the Danish media. For many years he’s been friend and ally to Robert Mugabe, who has helped him establish numerous money-making enterprises in Zimbabwe. Tvind has supported many “interesting” regimes over the years – from Pol Pot to Gaddafi.

A long investigation by Danish police into alleged tax evasion and fraud in one of Tvind’s charitable organisations culminated in an international arrest warrant being issued for Petersen.
– Source: Denmark’s Tvind, BBC, Mar. 21, 2002. Audio version broadcasting by BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 21st March 2002

Petersen disappeared from Denmark in 1979 and long was elusive. He was arrested in America in Feb. 2002:

The arrest of Mogens Amdi Petersen in Los Angeles at 1:30 AM on Sunday comes almost exactly two months to the date after Holstebro Police secretly had international arrest warrant issued on him.

“We asked to have him arrested because we suspected that he would (not show up in court) if charges were to be brought against him. We have had an international arrest order out on him since December 18th,” Kaasgaard said.
[…]

The idea that Mogens Amdi Petersen would try and avoid a court case in Denmark is nothing new to Holstebro police.

“We have been suspecting this all along. But we had to do wait until now when we feel that we have a good chance of putting him away. Our suspicion has definitely grown lately. The documents we found in the computers (seized from Tvind last year) shows that Amdi indeed is pulling all the strings in Tvind.” Jens Kaasgaard did not wish to speak about the specific findings in the documents.
[…]

Mogens Amdi Petersen’s arrest comes after police has been investigating a number of Tvind people including Mogens Amdi Petersen and Tvind CEO, Poul Jørgensen.

The two are, along with five other Tvind members charged with gross abuse of trust and tax abuse amounting to 75 million DKK.

Last April the investigation reached a climax when police raided eight central Tvind locations nation-wide. During the subsequent search police confiscated a number of computers, including one belonging to Mogens Amdi Petersen. Several hundreds of thousands of documents have been found on the computers, including some that according to police prove the alleged misuse of the funds taken from Tvind’s humanitarian trust.

Mogens Amdi Petersen and his five co-defendants are under suspicion for having deceived the taxation authorities by using the trust money unlawfully. The contributions to the trust were tax-exempt because they were to be spent on not-for-profit schemes, but the police suspects Amdi Petersen and his people instead used the tax-free millions on Brazilian plantations and a TV project in Oceania.
– Source: Amdi Petersen arrested in the US, Jyllands-Posten, Denmark, Feb. 18, 2002

Amdi Petersen was extradited to Denmark on Sep. 19, 2002.

Petersen is said to have pleaded guilty to a number of charges, but on Sep. 1, 2006, a court convicted Sten Bryner, the financial controller of several Tvind-related companies, of both embezzlement and tax fraud. Mogens Amdi Peterson and six others were acquited.

Prosecutors immediately said it was likely that they would appeal. They now are said to have additional evidence against Petersen and the other men who were acquitted. At the time of this writing two have been served writs but the other five, Petersen included, are believed to have left Denmark.

Research Resources

Articles

Blogs

Multimedia

Secular Denmark’s Tvind BBC Radio 4 on Thursday 21st March 2002

News Tracker & News Archive

news articles about Tvind, Humana, and Planet Aid Tvind news tracker & news archive.

Other

Web Sites

  • Brief information on Tvind by Danish historian Jes Fabricius Møller, excerpted from his Danish-language book, PåSejrens Vej (On the road to victory – the story of the School Co-operation Tvind and its creator Mogens Amdi Petersen). German-language excerpts can be read here. [Note, these site are archived at the Internet Archive]. See also the site below.
  • Tvind News Updatesoffsite In 2010 Jes Fabricius Møller started this blog as the continuation of his previous website (see above)
  • Tvind Alert: “An investigative website into the Humana People-to-People organisation and the international Tvind movement”

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This post was last updated: May. 23, 2016    

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