Tor Johannes Helleland, the Conservatives (Høyre) politician who hacked his way into young women’s computer files and spread naked photos of them on pornographic websites, has been formally charged with data theft and faces several years in prison. Police stated on Wednesday that the charge against him may be expanded.
“This is a highly preliminary charge,” prosecutor Per Morten Sending of the Søndre Buskerud Police District told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). “Further investigation will determine what any additional charges will be.”
NRK reported that Helleland, age 23, faces a lengthy prison term for both breaking into the accounts of women who also are young members of Høyre and for distributing the photos illegally.
Helleland, son of the longtime Member of Parliament for Høyre Trond Helleland, admitted publicly on Monday to stealing and distributing private photos of women. His confession came after newspaper VG’s weekend magazine VG Helg wrote about how another hacker and computer consultant, Einar Otto Stangvik, had managed to track what the younger Helleland had done and went to the police with his evidence. The police initially failed to act on the information, but are doing so now under pressure from both the state prosecutor and other politicians.
An investigation was launched Monday afternoon, after Helleland confessed and issued an apology to his female victims. Helleland resigned all his party posts with Høyre and was also seeking to resign from his elected office as a city council representative for Høyre in Drammen.
The case has badly shaken Høyre, which has been leading in public opinion polls in the run-up to parliamentary elections on September 9. In addition to asking Helleland to resign and publicly condemning his actions, Høyre officials have also offered legal assistance to his victims after stressing how “disappointed” they were that “one of our own could do something like this.”
It remains unclear why the young women, many of them reportedly members of Høyre’s youth organization that Helleland once led, would keep naked photos of themselves in storage accounts or “clouds” on the Internet. Helleland’s own motivation for spreading them also remains unclear, although some media have reported that he told the hacker who exposed him that he “just wanted to prove that I could do this:” successfully hack into others’ accounts himself. In addition to serving on Drammen’s City Council for Høyre, he also had a paid position at party headquarters in Oslo as an adviser on social media issues.
Police told NRK that they have so far been unable to question Helleland “because of health reasons on his side.” Helleland’s defense attorney, Anders Green, confirmed health-related problems on the part of his client but declined to elaborate.
Helland comes from a family long active in Høyre. In addition to his father being a Member of Parliament (MP), his mother, Jannike Thorsen, also serves on the City Council in Drammen and his stepmother, Linda H Helleland, is both an MP and has served as Høyre’s spokesperson on women’s and family issues. The elder Helleland’s uncle was also an MP from Ål, Hallgrim Berg, as was his great-grandfather, Johannes Helleland.