Norway Central Bank Deputy Governor Resigns Over China Ties

The deputy governor of Norway’s central bank, which oversees the world’s biggest sovereign wealth fund, is stepping down immediately after failing to get security clearance due to his ties to China.

Jon Nicolaisen, who’s had the role of deputy at the Oslo-based bank since 2014, said he “will not receive a renewed security clearance,” because his wife is a Chinese citizen and resides in China, “where I support her financially.”

Nicolaisen had his tenure extended in April, when he was asked to focus on the central bank’s role managing Norway’s $1.2 trillion sovereign wealth fund. Among his most recent public statements relating to the fund was a decision to hand a larger chunk of its portfolio to external managers.

Norway Central Bank Deputy Governor Resigns Over China Ties

Nicolaisen said the Norwegian Civil Security Clearance Authority told him it “determined that there are no circumstances regarding me personally that give rise to doubt about my suitability for obtaining a security clearance.” However, he said that alone “does not carry sufficient weight” in guiding the authority’s decision.

Gudmund Gjolstad, a director at the authority, said by phone that the decision was provided in response to a request from Nicolaisen’s employer.

Quarantine

The 61-year-old outgoing deputy went into quarantine last week after attending a meeting with the chief executive officer of the wealth fund, Nicolai Tangen, who said on Nov. 26 he tested positive for the coronavirus.

Governor Oystein Olsen, who has also self-isolated after being exposed to Tangen, said he “will miss” his deputy. Nicolaisen “performed his duties superbly as a close colleague and competent professional,” Olsen said on the central bank’s website.

Norges Bank spokesman Bard Ove Molberg said the deputy governor’s resignation won’t stop the central bank’s next policy meeting on Dec. 17 from going ahead.

Nicolaisen’s “tasks will be transferred to other people in the organization,” Molberg said by email. “Daily operations will not be affected.”

It’s not the first time a Norwegian state worker has been told to resign due to ties to a foreign power not deemed an ally. In 2018, a civil engineer at Norway’s defense research institute lost his job because he had a Russian wife. He sued for wrongful dismissal and subsequently won a court case against the government.

Gjolstad said there are “no established rules that make affiliation with any country an automatic” cause for the removal of a person’s security clearance. Instead, he said it’s always “an individual assessment.”

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