OSLO — The police arrested one of Norway’s wealthiest people on Tuesday and charged him with killing his wife, the latest twist in a case that has riveted the nation since reports of her kidnapping emerged more than a year ago.
The police, saying they now believe the abduction was fabricated, arrested the husband, Tom Hagen, 70, a energy and real estate multimillionaire, on suspicion of murder or conspiracy to commit murder.
His wife, Anne-Elisabeth Hagen, disappeared from their home in a quiet suburb of Oslo, the Norwegian capital, 18 months ago. Her body has not been found, but investigators have suggested for some time that they believed Ms. Hagen had been killed.
When news of Ms. Hagen’s disappearance first broke in January 2019, the police said that she had been kidnapped and that a hefty ransom, to be paid in cryptocurrency, had been demanded.
“We now believe there was no abduction and that there were never any genuine negotiations,” Norway’s East police district said in a statement. “In other words, we believe that there was a clear and well-planned attempt at misleading the police.”
Mr. Hagen is the founder and owner of Elkraft, an electricity company, and his real estate holdings include a large stake in a popular ski resort. His lawyer, Svein Holden, told the Norwegian newspaper VG that his client denied the charges.
“He finds it hard to be accused of something he has nothing to do with,” Mr. Holden said after visiting the police station where Mr. Hagen was being held while police searched his home, car and office for evidence.
“I am in shock,” said Tom Nilsen, a friend of Mr. Hagen, speaking to the Norwegian national broadcaster TV2. “I would not in my wildest fantasies have thought the case would take this turn.”
The police said they hoped to find Ms. Hagen’s body and determine whether other people were involved in her disappearance. Mr. Hagen will have a court hearing on Wednesday to determine if the police can detain him for up to four weeks.
The case had yielded few leads until now. The investigation — publicly, at least — seemed to hinge on a ransom note left at the Hagen home, demanding an equivalent of $10 million in cryptocurrency in exchange for Ms. Hagen’s safe return.
The police publicized Ms. Hagen’s disappearance a few months after she went missing in October 2018, in an apparent appeal for the public’s help. Though the police reported that the family had made contact on various occasions with the people supposedly holding Ms. Hagen captive, investigators said they were offered no proof of life.
Ostentatious shows of wealth are rare in Norway, and people there are generally proud of the country’s egalitarian spirit. Initial reports that Ms. Hagen had been abducted prompted a debate over an element of that culture: the legal requirement that every person’s tax return be made public, which some feared could turn the rich into targets.