Retired politician sentenced to jail

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Svein Ludvigsen was one of Norway’s most powerful politicians. Now a court in his native Troms has sentenced him to five years in prison for abusing his power to obtain sexual favours from young male asylum seekers.

Svein Ludvigsen was a highly trusted top politician for many years in Norway. He retired as county governor of Troms shortly before he was arrested and charged with abuse of power. PHOTO: Wikipedia

The court for Troms County, where Ludvigsen was fylkesmann (county governor) after leaving Parliament and his government post as fisheries minister, delivered a verdict of guilty on all counts in the shocking indictment that was lodged against him last fall.

Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported that Ludvigsen, who also was a deputy leader of the Conservative Party, was further ordered to pay a total of NOK 743,000 in compensation to the three young men whom he was found to have exploited. All three were asylum seekers, two of whom were living in asylum centers under Ludvigsen’s jurisdiction while one was working as a janitor in the office building where Ludvigsen was county governor.

The three young men all testified, independently of one another, that Ludgivsen had led them to believe he could either arrange for their permanent residence in Norway and even citizenship, and that he also had the power to deport them. They feared they’d be sent out of the country unless they went along with Ludgivsen’s sexual advances.

Ludvigsen had initially denied all the charges against him and told police he had never had any relations with the young men. He changed his story under oath, admitting that he did have sex three times with one of the young men, but he claimed it was consensual. He denied having done anything illegal or abusing his power over the men who had sought refuge in Norway from various troubled countries in Africa and the Middle East.

Battle for credibility
Legal commentators had said the case boiled down to a battle for credibility. Ludvigsen clearly lost on Thursday and his defense attorney said he was both “surprised and disappointed” by the verdict. He intends to appeal, defense attorney Kai Vaag told NRK, with Ludvigsen believing the court has evaluated evidence in the case incorrectly and set a level for evidence demands that was too low. “Ludvigsen is taking this very hard right now,” Vaag told NRK.

Vaag said on national radio Thursday that he was also surprised by the court’s verdict and raised questions over how the law was interpreted, both regarding how Ludvigsen allegedly abused the power of his position as county governor and that he had exploited people in a vulnerable situation.

The plaintiffs, however, had testified that they felt like slaves of the much older Ludvigsen, and that they felt deep shame since homosexuality goes against their religion. They all feared the consequences of refusing to fulfill Ludvigsen’s demands on them. One of the men described various assaults at Ludvigsen’s hytte (holiday cabin), some of them so severe that they resembled rape.

‘The system functions’
Prosecutors were satisfied with the verdict, that mostly went along with what they’d presented and demanded, including the five-year jail term. Beate Arntzen, attorney for one of the three young men, told NRK that her client was relieved by the ruling and glad that the court had believed his testimony. Ole Magnus Strømmen, attorney for another of the plaintiffs, told newspaper VG that his client didn’t care so much about the compensation that the court granted, and hoped the case would soon end. He and the others, however, how face an appeals trial.

“It’s good that the system functions also when people in powerful positions are involved,” Strømmen told VG. “This has been an orderly process.” The Ludvigsen case has brought more disfavour upon Norwegian politicians, after several were caught the MeToo campaign against sexual harassment and others have been charged with fraud.

Ludvigsen, who will turn 73 later this month, served as a Member of Parliament for the Conservative Party from 1989 until 2001, when he became fisheries minister in a center-right government from 2001 to 2005. He was then appointed county governor in his native Troms, serving from 2006 until his retirement in 2014. He led the Parliament’s committee for business and finance issuesfrom 1993 to 1997 and was a member of the Free Masons until his suspension in January of last year when he was arrested and charged with sexual assault. He has a wife and two children.

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund