SIX SVALBARD RESIDENTS ARRESTED ON DRUG CHARGES: ‘Small quantities’ seized Thursday night and Friday morning; suspects also had numerous weapons, governor says

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Six permant residents of Svabard were arrested on drug charges during raids conducted Thursday night and Friday morning, according to The Governor of Svalbard. In addition to seizing a small amount of drugs, officials also seized a large number of weapons.

“This pertains to importatation, storage and use,” Lt. Gov. Sølvi Elvedahl said in a prepared statement. “We have seized small quantities of drugs.”

The suspects also had a multitude of weapons.

“I do not have a full count, but with some of these people we are actually seized up to five weapons,” Elvedahl told NRK. “Almost everyone has had access to weapons.”

Elvedahl told Svalbardposten the six suspects include both men and women, and are in their 30s and 40s. She told the newspaper the case dates back the seizure of a package in the Oslo area in 2019 and officials at the governor’s office connected it to a previous investigation.

Interrogations of the suspects was continuing at midday Friday, according to the statement. Further investigation into the case is also continuing.

“The action is the result of a collaboration with the customs authorities,” Elvedahl said.

Drug arrests are exceedingly rare in Svalbard – although officials have stated in recent years they believe an active “drug environment” exists – and such violations are among those that can result in expulsion from the archipelago.

The most recent drug arrest occurred when a man asking around for drugs was found in possesion of numerous illegal substances and pleads guilty to related charges shortly before his trial was scheduled to start in spring of 2019.

At least three people were arrested in August of 2017 when the governor and law enforment officials from the mainland began a campaign to unroot a “drug environment” in Longyearbyen, particularly in the “tourism and nightlife industry,” Svabardposten reported at the time. At the time officials said they did not believe the problem has spread to local youths, but it was a foremost concern.

The most recent incident ivolving a large group occurred in 2015 when 11 people were arrested, mostly on violations involving marijuana, but some involving “harder” drugs.

A similar bust occurred when 11 people were arrested on drug charges in 2011. They were charged with a total of 24 offenses, which resulted in a 26 percent rise in Svalbard’s crime rate that year. One person was expelled and another received a preliminary warning of expulsion.

An online survey by Svalbardposten after the 2015 arrests showed 86 percent of respondents favored explusion for drug crimes. The relatiely few dissenters noted marijuana legalization and social acceptance is growing rapidly, and argued people who are substance addicts need help rather than punishment.