Hans Sverre Sjøvold, a former chief of police in Oslo, resigned in disgrace on Thursday as head of Norway’s police intelligence agency PST. Sjøvold has been at the center of a scandal over his illegal possession of weapons privately, and how he allegedly used subordinates to help him get rid of them.
The justice ministry announced Sjøvold’s resignation and Justice Minister Emilie Enger Mehl called it “wise” decision. His resignation took effect immediately, coming right in the middle of one of the most serious security situations for Norway and Europe in years.
“He asked to resign himself and leave his position today,” Mehl told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She claimed she respected his decision, adding that “I think it’s wise.”
Set off conflict
Newspaper VG has been reporting in a series of articles about how Sjøvold took possession of weapons previously owned by a friend and never registered them in his own name. He mentioned to subordinates that he had a problem with them, and when one offered to help him unload them, he accepted. That ended up setting off a conflict lower in the police ranks between those expecting special “help” for the Oslo police chief at the time, and those determined to follow the rules.
VG has also reported that Sjøvold never mentioned his illegal possession of the weapons for seven years when asked to account for weapon issues by former Justice Minister Jøran Kallmyr of the Progress Party in November 2019. He’d been fined for the illegal possession the same year while also having to fend off other questionable practices.
After the latest round of reports in VG, the Parliament asked Mehl, who represents the Center Party, to evaluate Sjøvold’s security clearance. She had expressed ongoing confidence in Sjøvold as late as a month ago.
Now she has swiftly accepted his resignation, while also noting that Sjøvold’s offenses took place during the former government led by the Conservatives and Progress. She claimed she’s glad Sjøvold’s offenses have now come forth, but continued to note that he worked within the Norwegian police for more than 40 years “and has done a job with professional strength in many of the posts he’s held.”
The entire case remains under investigation. Sjøvold stated that PST “needs a chief who can direct full attention to its extremely important tasks and hold public confidence. That’s more important than ever in the security situation we’re now in.” He stated that there’s been “a lot of negative attention” around him during the past few weeks, and that PST’s reputation was at stake.
Assistant PST leader Roger Berg was named acting PST chief on Thursday until the justice ministry names a new chief. Berg, a career police officer, started working for PST in the early 1990s and has also served as acting chief on three previous occasions, when changes of command were needed.