Mayor charged with gross corruption – police telephone tapping becomes evidence in court – NRK Oslo and Viken – Local news, TV and radio

125,000 kroner.

Mayor Hilde Thorkildsen received so much in 2013 through her company from a person in Nittedal.

What was this money for?

The amount was payment for clothes, according to Thorkildsen. She has previously run clothing stores.

Ecocrime believes the payment proves corruption.

– We believe the payment was in reality a bribe related to Thorkildsen’s position as mayor, says Chief State Attorney Esben Kyhring.

ACTOR: First State Attorney Esben Kyhring in Økokrim.

Photo: Philip Hofgaard / NRK

Historical trial

The historic trial against Thorkildsen and the man whom Økokrim believes bribed the mayor begins on Tuesday.

No elected representative has ever before been charged with gross corruption in Norway.

A full five weeks have been set aside for the case, which is taking place in Lillestrøm.

The roll-out in Nittedal began with a notice to the municipality in the autumn of 2019.

NRK has previously revealed that the municipality hired one of Norway’s foremost corruption hunters, Erling Grimstad, to investigate the warning.

Erling Grimstad

CORRUPTION HUNTER: Former assistant manager for Økokrim, Erling Grimstad, investigated the warning on behalf of Nittedal municipality.

Photo: Arash A. Nejad / NTB scanpix

He contacted Økokrim, which secretly opened an investigation of the mayor.

For a while, they tapped Thorkildsen’s phone.

– In general, our experience is that telephone tapping can be suitable for obtaining relevant evidence in corruption cases, says Kyhring.

Ecocrime will play recordings from the intercepted conversations in court.

Suspended as mayor

Hilde Thorkildsen has always claimed her innocence. She does not want to be interviewed by NRK, but defender Thomas Skjelbred writes in an e-mail:

“She denies having received an undue advantage in connection with her term as mayor.”

NRK has asked a number of questions to Thorkildsen via the lawyer, including:

  • Why do you think you are innocent?
  • What will be the most important thing for you to bring to court?
  • How would you describe your relationship with the other person being charged?

Skjelbred does not answer the questions, but writes:

“She will explain herself in court.”

He adds that the case has been and still is a great burden for her.

Thorkildsen has been mayor of Nittedal since 2011. She has now been suspended from her post as mayor.

Appeal case: The Veireno case Borgarting Court of Appeal.

DEFENDANT: Lawyer Thomas Skjelbred will defend Hilde Thorkildsen in court. Photo taken during another trial.

Photo: Vidar Ruud / NTB

The housing project

Central to the case is a housing project in Bjørnholtlia, north of the municipality.

It is planned to build 300 homes here.

The accused man has ownership interests in this project. He will not be interviewed by NRK.

– We give our explanation and argumentation in court, says defense attorney Fredrik Berg.

The housing plans did not originally go through with the County Governor, who is now called the State Administrator.

But after mediation with the municipality, the County Governor still gave the green light. Thorkildsen was central in the mediation.

In 2016, the municipal council unanimously decided to regulate the area for housing.

So far, no homes have been built in Bjørnholtlia.

State Attorney Valgerd Svarstad Haugland has now been summoned as a witness in the trial.

The mayor of Nittedal is charged with corruption in connection with a major development project here in Bjørnholtlia in Nittedal.

THE HOUSING PROJECT: The corruption allegations are about a large housing project in Bjørnholtlia in Nittedal municipality. The forest at the bottom of the picture shows the area where it is planned to build 300 homes.

Foto: Tore Meek / NTB Scanpix

May be invalid

Ecocrime originally investigated five people in Nittedal.

In December, Thorkildsen and a man charged with gross corruption. The charge against the other three was dropped.

After the indictment came, Grimstad finished writing his investigation report for the municipality.

It concluded that Thorkildsen was probably incompetent in the political treatment of the housing project in Bjørnholtlia.

It can thus be questioned whether the zoning plan is valid.

The municipal council in Nittedal has not yet taken a position on this. They will wait for the outcome in court.

For the past five years, Økokrim has investigated two other elected representatives charged with corruption. None of the cases reached the courtroom.

The case against Bergen’s mayor Trude Drevland (H) was dismissed due to the position of the evidence. The case against Trondheim politician Rune Olsø (Labor Party) was dropped for the same reason.

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