Norwegian Citizen Arrested for Espionage on behalf of China

In an unprecedented event, a Norwegian citizen has been arrested and charged with espionage on behalf of China. This marks the first time such an incident has occurred in Norway, according to the Police Security Service (PST).

The individual, whose identity remains undisclosed, was apprehended upon his return from China at Gardermoen Airport. He faces charges of attempting to engage in severe intelligence activities against state secrets.

The arrest, which occurred without incident, was confirmed by police attorney Thomas Blom during a press conference following a court hearing. Blom stated that the suspect has been remanded in custody for four weeks, during which he will be denied visits and correspondence.

“He denies the charges and demands his release,” Blom added.

PST officials disclosed that their investigation is in its early and delicate stages, thus limiting the information they can share. “We are in a very initial and vulnerable phase. Therefore, we are quite reticent at this point. We will not be providing many details about the case,” said Blom.

Nevertheless, PST has indicated that preliminary findings suggest the suspect possessed information intended for Chinese intelligence services. Specific details about the nature of this information have not been disclosed. The man has not yet provided a statement and is currently the sole suspect.

The arrest took place on Monday, and the suspect has been charged with violations of sections 122 and 126 of the Norwegian Penal Code, which pertain to severe espionage and illegal intelligence activities. Senior advisor Eirik Veum from PST confirmed these details to the Norwegian News Agency (NTB).

The suspect’s defense attorney, Marius Dietrichson, stated prior to the detention hearing that his client denies being an agent for China and asserts his innocence regarding the accusations.

Summary of the article

  • A Norwegian citizen has been arrested and charged with espionage on behalf of China, marking the first such case in Norway. The suspect, whose identity remains undisclosed, was apprehended at Oslo’s international airport upon returning from China. He faces charges of attempting to engage in severe intelligence activities against state secrets.
  • The Police Security Service (PST) has placed the suspect in four-week pre-trial detention, with the first two weeks to be spent in isolation. The accused denies the charges and claims innocence.
  • PST officials state that the investigation is in its early and sensitive stages, limiting the information they can share. However, they indicate that preliminary findings suggest the suspect possessed information intended for Chinese intelligence services.
  • This arrest aligns with Norway’s 2024 threat assessment, which identified China as a “significant intelligence threat” due to deteriorating relations between China and the West, and China’s interests in supply chains and Arctic positioning.
President of China Xi Jinping / Photo Kremlin

The Chinese embassy in Norway, contacted by NRK, has not yet provided any comments on the matter, stating that they are currently unaware of the case.

Tom Røseth, an associate professor at the Norwegian Defence University College, highlighted the significance of this case, noting it is the first instance of a Norwegian citizen being arrested for espionage in favor of China. He emphasized Norway’s advanced position in various technologies, including maritime and defense technology, which are of particular interest to China. According to Røseth, there is a growing trend of digital recruitment efforts from both China and Russia.

The PST has previously identified China as a significant intelligence threat in its 2024 threat assessment, attributing this to the deteriorating relationship between China and the West, and China’s ambitions to control supply chains and establish a presence in the Arctic. The security service has warned that cyber operations and source recruitment are the primary methods used by China to acquire Norwegian goods and technology.

The Chinese embassy has previously dismissed such accusations, describing them as stigmatizing normal cooperation and exchanges between China and Norway. They reiterated their opposition to what they see as baseless allegations and urged for an objective and fair view of China, emphasizing the importance of maintaining a healthy and stable bilateral relationship.

Spy Suspect Participated in Study Tour to Germany with Local Labour Party Group

The Norwegian citizen recently arrested and charged with attempting to engage in severe intelligence activities for China had been active in a local Labour Party group and participated in a study tour to Germany last year. The tour, which took place in 2023, focused on Norwegian-German defense cooperation.

The man, who was detained and remanded for four weeks on charges of severe espionage, denies any wrongdoing. NRK has not confirmed whether the Germany trip is part of the charges against him.

The Labour Party group is currently reviewing the program of the tour and the nature of the information shared during the trip. All lectures were unclassified, and no security clearance was required for participants.

Frode Jacobsen, leader of the Oslo Labour Party where the suspect was active, stated, “This is serious, and it is important that the police investigate thoroughly. We have not been contacted by the police regarding this matter, nor do we have any reason to be. Our local group must handle this responsibly.”

Jacobsen emphasized that no classified information was disclosed during the study tour. “However, unclassified information, when pieced together, can sometimes create a comprehensive picture that shouldn’t have been formed.”

The tour’s focus on Norwegian-German defense cooperation is pertinent given Norway’s plans to purchase submarines from Germany. This context raises questions about the potential interest for espionage activities.

Tom Røseth, a lead intelligence instructor at the Norwegian Defence University College, explained that security policy and weapons procurement are of significant interest between Norway and Germany, especially in light of the war in Ukraine. “Knowing more about Germany is crucial, given its historical defense focus and current role in Europe,” Røseth said, speaking generally and not specifically about the study tour.

Photo : openDemocracy.

Germany has become one of Norway’s most important European defense partners since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Norwegian government has expanded cooperation with Germany on multiple fronts, including procurement and political and military contacts. The recent long-term defense plan includes the acquisition of five new submarines from Germany, with an option for a sixth.

The suspect, in his 30s, was born and raised in Oslo and has a criminal record in Norway. His family background includes foreign heritage, though not from China. He has been involved in various security policy forums and organizations and has written articles on international topics.

The suspect has a strong academic background, holding a bachelor’s degree in international studies from Norway, a master’s degree from an international university, and a Ph.D. in international politics from a university in China.

In response to the case, the Chinese embassy in Norway expressed their disapproval. “Recently, some European countries have fabricated and hyped up so-called ‘Chinese spy cases’ to smear China. We strongly oppose such actions,” the embassy stated.

The embassy criticized repeated accusations from Norwegian services, calling them unfounded and damaging to normal cooperation between China and Norway. They urged Norway to adopt a fair and objective view of China, focus on facts, and work towards maintaining a healthy bilateral relationship.

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