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Monday, July 15, 2024

Police pressured to probe corruption

UPDATED: Oslo Police Chief Hans Sverre Sjøvold has admitted there were “several indications” that Eirik Jensen, one of the police force’s most trusted and high-profile officers, didn’t follow instructions for dealing with informants. Jensen now faces 21 years in prison after being convicted of corruption, and the soul-searching among his colleagues and superiors is well underway: Justice Minister Per-Willy Amundsen ordered an investigation later on Tuesday into why the police didn’t act earlier on suspicions around Jensen.

Oslo Police Chief Hans Sverre Sjøvold can’t explain how a top cop could get away with serious corruption over such a long period of time. A full external investigation is likely, he told NRK, following the conviction of his own police force’s Eirik Jensen. PHOTO: Politidirektoratet/Kåre M Hansen

“I have no good answer as to how this (the serious violations of regulations and the law for which Jensen was convicted and sentenced on Monday) could have gone on over such a long time,” Sjøvold told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) after the Oslo City Court sentenced Jensen to Norway’s harshest punishment. The court simply didn’t believe any of the defense testimony Jensen delivered during his lengthy trial last winter and spring, and his conviction is a huge embarrassment for the Norwegian police.

Jensen is more than likely to appeal, but Sjøvold also admitted that there was “no doubt” that “some smoke signals” about procedural irregularities tied to Jensen’s work “came up here and there.” Jensen’s work was aimed at Oslo’s underworld and he worked with informants including Gjermund Cappelen, who later admitted to and was convicted for smuggling millions of tons of hash into Norway over a period of many years. Jensen was convicted for not only accepting bribes to protect Cappelen’s hash business, but for aiding and abetting it as well.

Court criticized police for being passive
The convictions and lengthy prison terms handed both Jensen and Cappelen on Monday came after the court also had criticized the police for not having stepped in earlier, or acting on suspicions that allegedly swirled among other police colleagues. The court pointed to several warnings about an unprofessional relationship between Jensen and the so-called “hash baron” Cappelen.

“I think many of those who had picked up signals evaluated them along legal lines, like whether there was enough evidence, whether we could rely on it or whether there was enough to pursue,” Sjøvold told NRK. “They perhaps haven’t thought enough about the administrative track here, that we must manage as leaders and perhaps should have been more on the offensive regarding it. But I don’t really know.”

He said he couldn’t answer whether he now “sees between the lines” that others within the police force were aware of Jensen’s infringements. “But there have certainly been indications about irregularities in the system,” Sjøvold said. “Eirik Jensen has been a controversial person and there has come information from both here and there.”

Backs an external investigation
Sjøvold, a lawyer himself and former rector of the state police academy, has already expressed support for an investigation of the Jensen case, how it could have occurred and the prospects for corruption within the Norwegian police. While the police’s own internal affairs division has already been involved, Sjøvold said an investigation of how Oslo police work with informants should be conducted externally. There are no winners in this case, but Sjøvold sees prospects for improvement.

The Oslo police chief, who assumed his post in 2012 after heading the Justice Ministry’s police division, said his force already has beefed up procedures to ensure better quality of the work with criminal informants. No police leaders should have informants themselves, like Jensen had, but rather lead those who do have informants. “I believe we have good control over informant work today,” Sjøvold said.

Sjøvold’s predecessor as Oslo police chief,, Anstein Gjengedal, told NRK that he never picked up any suspicions or tips that Jensen cooperated with criminals. “As police chief I never heard any such rumours,” Gjengedal said. “If police officers knew about this they should have reported it to those higher in the system, but it never reached my level. I would of course have reacted and had them investigated.”

Justice Minister Amundsen told NRK later on Tuesday that he would launch an external probe, not least given the court’s criticism of the Oslo Police District’s failure to act on tips and concerns about Jensen years ago.

Emotions running high
Other police officers, meanwhile, are emotionally upset over Jensen’s conviction and believe he’s innocent, including Jensen’s former chief in the section for organized crime investigations in Oslo, Øyvind Nordgarden. He told NRK that he never saw or received any indications that could raise suspicions. While Jensen worked in Oslo, though, Cappelen was under investigation in suburban Bærum.

“We are probably poor at informing one another across police district borders,” Nordgarden said. “Even though operations are supposed to be secret, we could communicate at the right levels. I think we need to think about this, and be better at speaking with one another.”

He also noted that Jensen, as a leader himself of a police division with 30 to 40 police officers reporting to him, possessed a high level of confidence among colleagues. That also could have played a role in the lack of concerns officially expressed.

Sjøvold claimed that it was “easy to sit here now that we have this conviction before us and the benefit of hindsight. What we need to ask ourselves is whether there were indications during the years Jensen carried on that would suggest something wasn’t right. We need to be more concrete and let those involved express themselves. In that light, an investigation can be interesting.” Berglund



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