It took a few days, but a 25-year-old man arrested for spying in Oslo late last week finally agreed to undergo questioning by police on Wednesday. Prosecutors, meanwhile, now say that a foreign state may not be behind his alleged espionage.
“He wanted to clarify himself,” his defense attorney Aase Karine Sigmond told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK). She added that her client, who has a Malaysian passport, “wants the police to get information from him, so that they can continue investigating and then settle on a basis for suspicion.” She said her client objects to the charges filed against him, but she declined comment when asked whether he acknowledges their factual grounds: that he drove and parked around state government offices in Oslo with equipment aimed at tapping into their electronic communications.
He was arrested last Friday night and charged with trying to listen in on communications at the Office of the Prime Minister, the defense ministry and other government offices. Prosecutors don’t think he was acting alone, and they have several “open” theories about who he was cooperating with or working for.
Atle Tangen of the police intelligence agency PST now notes that it may not be a foreign state such as China or Russia, both of which have long been targeted by PST as posing the biggest security threats to Norway. “In recent years we’ve seen that criminal organizations and private security firms have capacity for signal espionage,” Tangen told NRK.
China’s embassy in Oslo, meanwhile, responded to questions from NRK with an email complaining that “some people” want “to spread rumours about so-called spies from China” without presenting any evidence. The embassy went on to state that China has no interest in such, and is instead interested in “how we can improve mutual understanding through communication” and cooperation.