Norwegian state cleared of wrongdoing in Russia spy case

Norwegian state cleared of wrongdoing in Russia spy case
Former border inspector Frode Berg appears in court as a witness for Norwegian company Olen Betong on February 5th. Photo: AFP
An Oslo court on Tuesday acquitted the Norwegian state, which had been sued by a concrete producer for financial losses due to the country's intelligence agencies' clumsy approach to recruiting informants.

Olen Betong had accused the Norwegian internal (PST) and external (E-tjenesten) intelligence services of contacting two employees working in Russia's Murmansk region in 2010 to turn them into informants.

The company, which has business interests in Russia's north-west, said the intelligence services had made repeated indiscreet contact over the last decade, which was noticed by Russian government agencies.

Olen Betong claimed this led to the loss of an important contract in Russia and legal trouble for company founder Atle Berge and employee Kurt Sto.

The pair were arrested and interrogated in Murmansk before being declared persona non grata in Russia for ten years.

Olen Betong had sought 140 million Norwegian kroner (13.9million euros) in damages from the state.

Although the state admitted that contacts were made by the intelligence services, it maintained they did not act carelessly and that discussions about security were part of normal operations.

In its verdict, the court sided with the state and found that the was “no basis for liability for E-tjenesten or PST, neither objectively nor on the basis of negligence.”

Atle Berge on Tuesday said he would most probably appeal the decision.

The five-day trial featured high profile witnesses like ex-foreign minister and current Labour opposition leader Jonas Gahr Støre.

Another witness was Frode Berg, who was imprisoned in Russia but released
last year in a spy swap.

Berg was sentenced to jail for 14 years in April 2019 after admitting to acting as a courier for Norwegian intelligence.

READ ALSO: Norwegian company sues state over 'risky' spy recruitment in Russia


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