Trude Drevland, the once-high-profile mayor of Bergen, won’t be indicted on corruption charges after all. Nor will Bergen’s former harbour director, Inge Tangerås, or the shipowner who was alleged to have bribed them both in connection with the launch of his new Bergen-based cruiseship.
Drevland was forced to leave office and politics and Tangerås was suspended from his job when they both were charged with corruption last year. At issue was their acceptance of a lavish trip to Venice on board a private jet in June 2014, all paid for by shipwoner Torstein Hagen, who was launching his new cruisehip Viking Star. Drevland had also been chosen as godmother for the ship, which was christened as part of Bergen’s 17th of May celebrations last year.
Media attention to alleged conflicts of interest, not least after Drevland lobbied on Hagen’s behalf to political colleagues in the state government, led to a police investigation and the charges filed in the autumn of last year. Police sent the case on to state prosecutors in Hordaland County, recommending that both Drevland and Tangerås be indicted while charges were dropped against Hagen.
Now attorneys for the state claim, after what they called an “extensive investigation,” that they lacked sufficient evidence for indictments. “After an overall evaluation, we had too much doubt,” Catherine Greve of the state attorney’s office told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She noted that prosecutors must be convinced that the evidence can result in a conviction, and they weren’t.
“We understand the case has been an ordeal for those involved,” Greve said, “but it unfortunately couldn’t be avoided in a case of this magnitude.”
Drevland, who was autographing copies of her new book about the case in bookstores on Friday, said she was “pleased” by the decision. Her defense attorney John Christian Elden claimed she’d had a very rough “472 days under suspicion” and he thought she now was mostly looking forward to celebrate Christmas.
While Drevland was fielding a stream of congratulations from friends and former political colleagues, Tangerås said he was glad, too. “This is a fine early Christmas gift,” he told NRK. He received full pay during his suspension and said he looked forward to go back to work as harbour chief, while his attorney pondered filing a compensation claim for “non-financial losses” on his behalf.
Hagen’s lawyer said the shipowner was relieved and glad that charges also have been dropped against Drevland and Tangerås, and that the state prosecutors’ decision was not unexpected. “He has believed the whole time that neither he nor they did anything wrong,” said Hagen’s attorney, Bjørn Stordrange.