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American Aquafarms Founder and Lead Investor Facing New Allegations of Financial Wrongdoing

GOULDSBORO, Maine – Mikael Roenes, the Norwegian businessman who brought forward the American Aquafarms proposal to place a massive floating fish factory in Frenchman Bay next to Acadia National Park, is once again facing charges that he mishandled funds from wealthy Norwegian investors, according to an article this week in a Norway business publication.

“I am so incredibly disappointed that a man who has done what he did and has paid for it does the same thing again. It is difficult to understand,” 73-yearold Norwegian billionaire Ada Kjeseth told a Norwegian publication, Dagen Naeringsliv (Today’s Business), on Monday.

“This is a terrible situation, then. To put it bluntly: I feel cheated,” serial entrepreneur Bjørn Mathias Apeland, 68, said in the same article.

The Dagen Naeringsliv article says Apelund is a 20% owner of the company Blue Future. He is also the CEO of the Amar Group. The American Aquafarms’ permit application to Maine Department of Marine Resources (DMR) listed Apelund as an American Aquafarms officer and director and lists Blue Future and Amar as two of its three lead investors.

Two recent court rulings have given Apeland and Kjeseth and their companies the right to seize assets worth over 20 million Kroner belonging to Mikael Lade Rønes and his companies. According to the article, that amount applies to loans and share purchases related to Rønes and his business.

“From the start, we have been concerned about the environmental threats of the American Aquafarms project to the Frenchman Bay ecosystem and the impact it would have on local jobs in fishing, tourism and recreation,” said Henry Sharpe, president of Frenchman Bay United, the coalition that is leading the opposition to American Aquafarms. “These latest court proceedings in Norway raise additional questions about the person leading this project.”

In the early 2000s, Roenes was found guilty of defrauding investors and funneling money to himself and a company that he owned. According to news accounts, at the end of 2005 he misspent NOK 52M ($6.1 million USD) in a six-week period, including funneling more than NOK 11m ($1.3 million USD) to himself and purchasing three luxury cars.

Monday’s article notes the most recent court ruling points out that Roenes past convictions were for “gross fraud in connection with investing in share purchases, gross adultery after draining the company Concord Finance of its assets, as well as breaching the Accounting Act, the Bookkeeping Act, the Value Added Tax Act, the Settlement Act, the Shares Act and the Securities Act".

Roenes was sentenced to four years in prison and forced to pay restitution of NOK 15M ($1.8 million USD) for his actions. When the American Aquafarms proposal was first announced in late 2020, Roenes acknowledged his past crimes and told the Bangor Daily News that “I accept full responsibility for my actions and have paid my debt to society.”

Despite the fact that the Maine DMR refused in April to accept American Aquafarms application to lease 120 acres in Frenchman Bay, citing the company’s failure to come with a qualified 3 sources of fish eggs and ending further consideration of the project, Roenes maintains that American Aquafarms development has been carried out according to plan, “even if it has taken longer than first predicted.” He denies that the investors’ money is missing but acknowledges that there has been “a liquidity squeeze in connection with the investments in the USA.”

The news article makes no mention of whether American Aquafarms' investors have been notified that the Maine DMR has terminated consideration of the lease applications and new applications will have to be filed, likely adding years to the permitting process.

Roenes has promised to pay back the two Norwegian investors. However, in an email to Dagen Naeringsliv, Apeland said “…unfortunately we have little faith in these new promises from Rønes. We have received many stories about payments that should be just around the corner.”

“We also have no faith in anything Mikael Roenes and American Aquafarms does or says,” said Sharpe. “The overwhelming opposition to this project, including from both of the leading candidates to be Maine’s next Governor, should send a loud and clear message that this project is not wanted in Maine and is highly unlikely to move forward.”

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