Finance minister fends off threats

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Norway’s popular finance minister, Sigbjørn Johnsen, has been fending off threats from a Norwegian man who’s been charged with various crimes and may be suffering from a psychiatric disorder. Police have taken the man into custody.

Finance Minister Sigbjørn Johnsen is known as an affable, friendly government official, who often sings songs and recites poetry in budget meetings. Now a man is charged with threatening his life. PHOTO: Finansdepartementet

He’s the same man, age 44, who made headlines last winter after stealing an historic jacket once worn by the late King Haakon from the Ski Museum at Holmenkollen. The theft, occurring just before the Nordic Skiing World Championships began, severely shook personnel at Holmenkollen but the jacket was recovered after the man apparently had taken it to a dry cleaner’s shop.

Newspaper Aftenposten reported over the weekend that he’s now been charged under a special paragraph in Norway’s criminal code that can result in 15 years in prison for making threats against a government minister.

The man, who hasn’t been identified, allegedly demanded that Johnsen pay him NOK 100 billion (USD 18 billion), which he wanted to use for increased crime fighting in Norway. Espen Hanken of the special police intelligence unit PST said that investigators have secured tape recordings where death threats are made against Johnsen and his family.

The man reportedly called Johnsen several times in early June, before he was arrested and placed in custody.

His defense attorney, Oscar Ihlebæk, thinks the man should be committed to a psychiatric institution, not kept in jail. He was ordered held in prison for four weeks after his arrest, and a court extended his incarceration for another four weeks last Friday, while police continue their investigation.

The man reportedly has tried to set fire to his cell while in custody. “There was all reason to take the death threats against the minister and his family seriously,” Hanken said.

The Finance Ministry has declined comment on the case, referring inquiries to PST.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund
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