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Atle Berge Accuses Norwegian Secret Services of Misbehaving

Thomas Mathiesen is a Norwegian private investigator and a member of World Association of Detectives.

Ølen Betong does not close operations in Russia during crisis

The Norwegian concrete factory, Ølen Betong, chooses to stay in Russia. CEO, Atle Berge, cannot see a reason for leaving the country.

Ølen Betong has been delivering products and services to Russian companies and public sector for years.

The company has more than 70 employees and they depend on their business in Russia. Their financial and economic situation is more important than taking a stand in the ongoing conflict between Russia and Ukraine.

Many companies in Norway have closed their operations in Russia because of the ongoing war (March 2022).

Ølen Betong

Ølen Betong

Arrested by FSB - Because of Norwegian secret services?

Atle Berge was arrested by Russian FSB in Murmansk in 2016. He told private investigators and media that he was accused of spying on behalf of Norway.

Atle denied the allegations, but was extradited by Russian courts. The Russian authorities did not believe him, but his company was allowed to continue it's operations on Russian soil.

Mr. Berge believes that the reason for his arrest was due to Norwegian secret services approaching him in a period before the incident in Murmansk.

What triggered his arrest? What did FSB know?

FSB did tell Atle Berge that they were looking for others. Other Norwegians were also extradited, but nobody was charged with prison sentences in Russia.

Frode Berg is another Norwegian citizen who was arrested by FSB in Russia. He was charged for spying on Russia on behalf of Norway.

Frode Berg has never denied the allegations, and he was later released from Russian prison in exchange for a Russian prisoner abroad.

The full story can be read (in Norwegian) here and in English here.

Are these cases related? Why are their surnames so similar?

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Approached by PST/E-Tjenesten (Norwegian secret service)

Atle Berge took the Norwegian secret services (PST and E-Tjenesten) to court. The allegation was that the Norwegian government had been approaching him and making him and his business fragile.

FSB has people watching the secret services' activities in Norway. They knew that Atle Berge had been asked to work for them and this resulted in his arrest in 2016.

Ølen Betong (Atle Berge's company) lost contracts and income because of the arrest, and Mr. Berge wanted Norway to pay his company compensation.

PST's headquarters in Oslo Photo by: Hans-Petter Fjeld

PST's headquarters in Oslo Photo by: Hans-Petter Fjeld

Court case

In 1994 a commission called "Lund kommisjonen" made a report about the secret services, which lead to all Norwegians having the right to see their journal that was archived about them. This was mainly due to the cold war ending.

Mr. Berge asked to see his papers, but was denied. Norwegian politicians have been protesting this decision and Berge has hired private investigators to investigate the case and details.

He later lost the court case, but has protested and is taking the case to higher courts. There is no final decision made as of 2022.

Ethics

This case (and the Frode Berge case) tells us that ethics are important, even when it comes to spying on behalf of your own country.

Are citizens allowed to be approached by the government, making them a sitting duck for other nations? There are few, if any law that cover this topic in most European countries.

Norway is a member of NATO and borders to Russia. This make Norwegian citizens fragile and they could be recruited to gather information among Russians (in Norway and Russia).

Politicians and Atle Berge is questioning the methods being used by the secret service. Is it worth the risk?

Agents from the secret service may knock on your door and ask you to help them spy on other countries. If you do not cooperate you may be left being extradited by a country where your business is. This might result in losing contracts and income.

USA and Norway

Questions have been raised about USA's role in the spy cases in Norway. Why did the prime minister of Norway go to visit the president in the USA just weeks after Frode Berg was arrested by FSB?

Norway is a NATO ally, but the country is also trying to keep a friendly tone with their neighbor, Russia.

Is USA somewhat involved in the operations that involved Atle Berge and Frode Berg?

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