Norwegian firm sues authorities for attempts to make its employees spy in Russia

A court in Oslo on Monday opened hearings on a lawsuit filed by the Norwegian company Olen Betong Gruppen AS against the country’s government. The company claims that Norwegian secret services have for years tried to recruit its employees in Murmansk, the Norwegian news agency said.

The company argues that it has sustained multi-million losses as a result of charges of espionage. For instance, the Murmansk branch of Olen Betong now has to be managed from Norway’s Rugalan Province.

The company says there have been several attempts to recruit its employees in the capacity of informers. The Russian authorities exposed them and prohibited the persons in question from entering Russia. The executive director of the concrete manufacturer, Atle Berge, in 2016 was detained by FSB operatives in Murmansk and prohibited from entering Russia up to 2026. The Norwegian company’s employee in Murmansk Kurt Sto after contacts with the Norwegian security police was expelled from Russia and prohibited from entering the country again, too.

The company claims that secret services are responsible for heavy financial losses in Murmansk and argues that the Norwegian government is obliged to pay a compensation of about 14.5 million euros.

In 2007-2008, the company invested several hundred million Norwegian kroner into its business in Murmansk.

The court hearings will last for five days. On Wednesday, the court will hear testimonies by border guard inspector Frode Berg, who had been convicted in Russia of spying and returned to Norway from Russia as a result of a spy swap. Olen Betong’s lawyer argues that these two cases have much in common, because the secret services contacted Berg, too. In contrast to Olen Betong employees Berg agreed to cooperate.