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Arne Treholt: The Norwegian spy

Thomas Mathiesen is a Norwegian private investigator and a member of World Association of Detectives.

Who is Arne Treholt?

Arne Treholt is the first Norwegian citizen arrested and charged for being a political spy after World War II. He was married to Kari Storaekre at the time when he was arrested in 1985. They divorced shortly after.

Arne Treholt

Av Ole-Christian Bjarkøy – Eget verk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Av Ole-Christian Bjarkøy – Eget verk, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Claimed to be innocent in espionage

Treholt has all these years claimed to be innocent in espionage, but has admitted both to having secret meetings with the KGB, to having given the KGB graded documents and to having received money from both the KGB and Saddam Hussein's Iraq, which was partly placed on a secret account in Switzerland.

Treholt provided the Soviet Union with information on the defense plans for northern Norway in the event of a Soviet invasion, material weaknesses in the Armed Forces, mobilization times, soldiers on duty, Norwegian attack options in the event of a Soviet invasion, emergency stockpiles, minutes of meetings of the Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Norway. . Treholt's own explanation that he was a kind of "privately practicing foreign minister" was described as bordering on megalomania in the verdict. In his own book Gray Zones from 2004, he admitted both gross insanity in the service and "megalomania" and believed that the KGB had started so-called grooming with the aim of recruiting him as an agent, but that the arrest of him came before the KGB.


While Treholt worked as a journalist in Arbeiderbladet, he was discovered by Jens Evensen, and they began a close political collaboration and personal friendship. Between 1972 and 1976, Treholt was political secretary to the Minister of Trade and Maritime Affairs (who was Evensen between 1973 and 1974), and from 1976 to 1978 he was State Secretary to Evensen, who was then Minister of Maritime Law. Politically, Treholt was considered to belong to the left in the Labor Party, and Jens Evensen is described as his political mentor.

The later revelation of Treholt as a Soviet spy had a crushing effect on Evensen both personally and career-wise and led to a complete break between them. In a hearing in the Storting, Jens Evensen compared Treholt with Vidkun Quisling in 1989 (Evensen participated in the trial against Quisling early in his career).

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Arne Treholt was born into the Norwegian labor movement. His father was a parliamentary representative for the Labor Party and Minister of Agriculture, Thorstein Treholt. Arne Treholt was a journalist in Arbeiderbladet from 1966. From 1972 he was political secretary for the Minister of Trade and Maritime Affairs (who from 1973 was Jens Evensen) and he continued as state secretary for Jens Evensen when he became Minister of Maritime Law from 1976 to 1978.


Treholt was pardoned in 1992 and has since mostly lived abroad. Treholt has published several autobiographical books: Alene (1985), Avdeling K (1991) and Gråsoner (2004). Treholt has several times tried to get his case taken up again; this was finally rejected in 2008. In 2011, Treholt requested that the case be resumed, partly because new indications indicated that photo evidence in the case had been falsified. On 9 June 2011, the Commission for the Resumption of Criminal Cases rejected this application.

Treholt was arrested for espionage on January 20, 1984. In 1985, he was sentenced to 20 years in prison for espionage in favor of the Soviet Union and Iraq. He was convicted of revealing both military and political secrets to the Soviet intelligence service KGB in the period 1974-83, and to Iraqi intelligence 1981-83. The verdict also includes the handing over of secrets he received as a student at the Norwegian Defense College, where he was admitted with the government's approval, despite the fact that key members of the Willoch government knew that he was suspected of espionage. This relationship was one of the reasons for an extensive public debate on the Treholt case. It was partly about how serious Treholt's crimes really were, partly it was a debate about Norwegian intelligence policy and case law. Treholt himself has always denied espionage, but has admitted that he has given away classified documents and received money.

Sentence over

The convicted Labor politician and diplomat is back in his old cell in Drammen prison. He sat here for over a year while he waited to be tried in Norwegian history's largest espionage case.

- The time I had here is perhaps the most difficult I have ever had in my life. It is with rather special thoughts that I return here, and I do not feel quite comfortable being here, says Treholt.

On the notice board in the cell hung his son Torstein's drawing of a butterfly.

- It was a memory of him, and something that always created warm feelings. Small things get big inside a prison, Treholt says in the program.

Ever since the verdict was handed down, Treholt has worked to be cleared of the espionage charge. The Resumption Commission for Criminal Cases processed requests for a new trial in 2008 and 2011, but ended up rejecting both times.

Treholt is working private investigators in Norway to go through his case, and he will not give up until he can prove that is innocent.

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