COPENHAGEN, Denmark (AP) — A retired Norwegian border inspector, who was convicted in Russia for spying and who was returned home last year in a spy swap, lashed out Wednesday at the Scandinavian country’s intelligence services for using local people, saying they are “amateurish.”
Frode Berg appeared as a witnes s in a trial in which a Norwegian concrete company is suing thestate of Norway, claiming its intelligence services tried to recruit two employees. The company, Oelen Betong, wants 145-million kroner ($16 million) in compensation for economic losses as a result of the spy recruitment attempts.
In 2007 and 2008, the company invested millions of kroner in a project in Murmansk, Russia. Oelen Betong claims Norway’s intelligence services tried to recruit its manager, Atle Berge, and an employee, Kurt Stoe. Both were questioned by Russia’s FSB agency, the main KGB successor, in 2015 and 2016 and they were both were banned from entering Russia for 10 years.
Frode Berg, who was part of a spy swap in November, made it clear that he had no connection to Oelen Betong, which says it is one of Norway’s largest producers of concrete products.
He said the use of local people by the PST security service and the Norwegian Intelligence Service — respectively the domestic and the foreign intelligence agencies — in the areas along the Russian border, including Kirkenes that is Berg’s hometown, “was wrong.”
“The case is about the Norwegian secret services and we should perhaps start looking at how they operate and how they approach people,” said Berg, who was arrested in Moscow in December 2017 on espionage charges for collecting information about Russian nuclear submarines. Berg, who denied spying for Norway but has since gotten a financial compensation, was convicted in April.
“I don’t know the (Oelen Betong) case … and I see no connection between the two cases” Berg was quoted as saying by the Norwegian news agency NTB. ”In my case, they (the intelligence services) have been acting amateurishly. I think it is unreal when I think about what has happened. But I know these services so well, so I hope this is a one-time event”
Per Ristvedt, the defense lawyer for Olen Betong, noted that both cases involving Berg and Oelen Betong went wrong and noted that Berg was given a 4.3 million kroner ($465,300) compensation from the Norwegian state while his client had gotten nothing.
For years, the 64-year-old Berg had been a well-known figure in the Russian-Norwegian border area, taking an active role in cultural and humanitarian exchange projects.
The trial started Feb. 3. It was not immediately clear when a verdict would be announced.