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Denies guilt for tagging

A German man born in 1986 was arrested on suspicion of defacing multiple buildings in Longyearbyen FOTO: John Christian Nygaard

Denies guilt for tagging

A man arrested on suspicion of defacing multiple buildings in Longyearbyen is denying culpability

A German citizen born in 1986 was arrested at 2:30 p.m. Monday last week after several buildings were tagged with graffiti in Longyearbyen. The tagging referred to the level-two German football club SG Dynamo Dresden.

"Our view is that we got the right person," said Lt. Gov. Berit Sagfossen. "We found, among other things, German spray cans in the man's luggage."

Denies culpability

The man was not particularly cooperative during interrogation and refused to accept a fine he was offered by the governor.

"He was offered a chance to pay a fine of 6,000 kroner," Sagfossen said. "Had he adopted the writ, he would also have accepted a compensation claim of 15,000 kroner."

All of the buildings that were vandalized belong to Longyearbyen's municipal government and the claim was based on an estimate the governor received in connection with an assessment done Monday.

Sent home

The man was kept in a holding cell until he was driven to the airport Monday night for his scheduled flight to Oslo.

The man is a tourist and does not have any connection to Svalbard.

"He came up this weekend and had a return ticket on Monday," Sagfossen said. "To let him go home as planned was an assessment we did here."

Intense reaction

Because the man refused to accept the fine, he will be summoned to appear in court at a later date. He can expect a more stringent punishment if he is found guilty of the allegations against him.

"He will miss the sentence reduction he would have had if he accepted the fine immediately," Sagfossen said. "In addition, there is the possibility of further compensation in connection with the buildings that are tagged."

The man is charged with violating the Criminal Code Section 351:

"A fine or imprisonment not exceeding one year will be imposed on anyone who damages, destroys, makes useless or forfeits an object wholly or partially that belongs to another."

There is no indication yet if he will also face charges for violating the Svalbard Environmental Protection Act which, among other things, deals with cultural heritage buildings.

"We'll investigate further and that will include consulting with the environmental protection department," Sagfossen said. "It is they who have expertise in this area."

Good cooperation

As officials are investigating the matter locally, they will also contact German police through formal channels to see if the man has previous convictions.

Now that the man is probably back in Germany it will be more difficult to bring him to court, Sagfossen said, but added that the Norwegian and German police have a history of good cooperation.

"It's a bit more challenging to get hold of people who do not live in this country, but we must make sure to let him know when he will appear in court," Sagfossen said, adding the governor will consider an inquiry by proper authorities if he does not appear.

Einar Olsen, a building engineer for the city, said the estimate of 15,000 kroner only covers the cost of painting over the buildings where possible.

"There are three of the buildings that are not taken into account," he said. "There is a wooden house which has only been stained and the two old houses that once were connected to Mine 2. They are probably defined as worthy of protection and we cannot do something about them just like that."

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