Norwegian police on Monday arrested a suspected illegal agent in the Arctic city of Tromsø, the PST security service said on Tuesday, describing him as a rare illegal agent.
The man, who worked as a researcher at the University of Tromsø, had posed as a Brazilian citizen but police believe his real identity to be not Brazilian.
The news was first reported by Norwegian broadcaster NRK.
The man represents a “threat to fundamental national interests” and should be expelled from Norway, deputy PST chief Hedvig Moe told Reuters, describing him as an “illegal agent”.
An illegal agent is an intelligence operative without official government links who assumes a covert persona, often using a real, dead person’s identity.
“Typically illegal agents are talent scouts recruiting agents for later, and preparing the ground for other spies to do traditional intelligence work,” said Moe.
The accused man’s lawyer did not return a request for comment.
The suspect was involved in a research group that worked with Norwegian government agencies on “hybrid threats” linked to “Arctic Norway,” Moe said.
“He first contacted me in autumn last year… We assessed him like we would other researchers. One of his references was a professor I knew very well,” said Gunhild Hoogensen Gjørv, a professor of security studies at the University of Tromsø.
“He was a really lovely guy, very good at his job,” she said. “We had no reason to suspect him of being anything else than what he said he was.”
The man was arrested on Monday, Moe said, declining to say whether a specific event precipitated the decision. “It was the right point to stop the activity he was involved in,” she said.
The arrest was made possible with the collaboration of “several” international security services, declining to say from which countries.