An appeals court in Norway has vindicated a man who says his daughter was abducted twice by her Greek Cypriot mother and authorities on the island did nothing to help, with the news raising questions about judicial irregularities and further prompting Nicosia to take down an Interpol arrest warrant that had essentially prevented him from visiting Cyprus.
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Leif Torkel Grimsrud, a Norwegian father who was wanted in the Republic of Cyprus on kidnapping charges, was vindicated this week by an appeals court in his native country, after judges accepted a previous lower court ruling that found the Cypriot mother of his young daughter had filed false claims to sway a custody hearing in her favor.
Grimsrud had been accused of kidnapping his daughter in April 2017, when he took her by the hand outside her kindergarten in Nicosia, in front of her Greek Cypriot mother, setting in motion an unprecedented manhunt that included helicopters flying over town and ports within minutes.
After father and daughter made it back to Norway, the mother’s lawyer took the case to a Norwegian family court, which ruled that the girl ought to be returned to her legal guardian at her legal place of residence.
Grimsrud’s lawyers at the time took issue with the island’s judicial authorities over what they described as 'failure to follow procedures and deadlines set by the Hague Convention'
But it was not clear which country was legal residence for the child.
The mother’s lawyers argued that the girl had been living regularly in Cyprus with her mother but Grimsrud’s lawyers presented evidence that the child attended kindergarten in Norway where she was lawfully residing since birth in 2013.
They also said his ex-wife was employed in Norway since September 2012 and further submitted records showing 21 child visits to a health provider from birth all through October 2015, when she flew to Cyprus with her mother.
Norwegian sources told Knews that Grimsrud was feeling helpless because the mother of his child had gained “full parental custody” in a family court in Cyprus without his knowledge or input and without him being able to challenge the decision.
A Norwegian court later referred the father to Cypriot justice telling his lawyers he would need to go through the local court system to sort things out in a family court.
But a lawyer for Grimsrud, Yvonne Larsen, had stated in the past to VG News, a Norwegian media outlet, that in her opinion the legal system in Cyprus did not provide even minimum rights to a father.
“It is a legal system that decides the future of a child without hearing the other side,” she said.
The Legal Department in Cyprus did not comment on the story but Grimsrud’s lawyers at the time took issue with the island’s judicial authorities over what they described as “failure to follow procedures and deadlines set by the Hague Convention.”
Desperate father’s first failed attempt
In 2016, Grimsrud traveled to Cyprus with three other Norwegian nationals who went along to try and reunite father with daughter, but they failed after Cyprus Police got wind of their operation and arrested them on attempted kidnapping charges after finding a map to a kindergarten during a random car search.
After the successful abduction the following year, mom and daughter were reunited in October 2017 when the mother and her lawyer traveled to Norway where both parties were scheduled for a sit down to discuss future visitations between the dad and the girl.
But the meeting never took place, with a source telling Knews that the mother and her daughter flew back to Cyprus one day before the meeting.
Grimsrud then filed motions in Norway accusing the mother’s defense of making false claims in a court of law, as well as illegally obtaining Cypriot travel documents for the child, who only had Norwegian citizenship.
Interpol warrant notice disappears
Grimsrud was never prosecuted by Cypriot authorities but his name and photo remained published on an Interpol wanted list, essentially preventing him from visiting the island to meet with his daughter. Charges listed up until very recently included conspiracy to commit felony, conspiracy to commit misdemeanor, kidnapping from lawful guardianship, abduction of girls under sixteen, and assault.
This week the Interpol notice did not appear on the site after Norwegian judges unanimously called on that country’s law enforcement and judicial authorities to work together “so that the father will not be a wanted man in Cyprus in order to really have the opportunity to travel there and have contact with his child.”
Questions about Cypriot procedures
According to court documents, the Norwegian judges stopped short of taking a position concerning child custody, but questions have been raised over the Cypriot court ruling that awarded full custody to the mother unbeknownst to the father.
Knews has been told that Cypriot travel documents for the child were issued by the Cypriot government through a consulate office in Sweden, within 2 to 3 weeks after mother and daughter left their Oslo home in October 2015.
Reports said court documents in Norway suggested the father should not face kidnapping charges as he was making “an attempt to reestablish contact with his child.”
A previous ruling in Oslo that vindicated Grimsrud also included references to Cypriot justice, suggesting courts, police, and the judicial authorities on the island denied Norwegian authorities access to legal procedures.