A 25-year-old Malaysian student has been arrested in Norway on suspicion of espionage, including illegal eavesdropping through various technical devices, local media reported.
Norwegian public broadcaster NRK reported that the man is of Malaysian origin, but there is no suspicion that Malaysia is involved.
Malaysia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed the arrest on Tuesday, saying it was informed of the matter by its High Commission in Sweden.
“The High Commission in Stockholm is in close contact with the local authorities in Oslo, Norway to get more information on this case,” it said in a statement.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will continue to monitor the development of this case and will provide appropriate consular assistance if necessary.”
Norway’s police intelligence agency, known by its acronym PST, told Norwegian media earlier that the man, who was arrested on Sept 8, was charged in court on Sunday with espionage and intelligence operations against the Nordic country.
He allegedly drove around or parked near the office of the Prime Minister, the Defence Ministry and other government offices in Oslo in a rental car, and tried to tap into their electronic communications, Norwegian media reported.
The man, whose identity has not been disclosed, has pleaded not guilty during initial police questioning. The Norwegian authorities have also not said which country the man was allegedly spying for.
“We don’t quite know what we’re facing. We are in a critical, initial and vulnerable phase of the investigation,” PST lawyer Thomas Blom was quoted as saying by NRK.
“He (the suspect) is charged with using technical installations for illegal signal intelligence.”
The police have seized from the man a number of data-carrying electronic devices, which the PST is now investigating.
The suspect is a student, but he is not enrolled at an educational institution in Norway and has been living in Norway for a relatively short time, according to PST.
Citing the arrest order, NRK said the suspect had allegedly been caught conducting illegal signal surveillance in a rental car near the Norwegian Prime Minister’s Office and the Defence Ministry.
According to a court decision, the man has been imprisoned in pretrial custody for four weeks with a ban on receiving letters and visits. Security officials said the suspect was not operating alone.
PST has singled out in its previous assessments, neighbouring Russia, China, and North Korea as state actors that pose a significant intelligence threat to Norway, a nation of 5.4 million.
(THE STAR/ASIA NEWS NETWORK)