Norway’s police intelligence agency PST has charged a Norwegian man in his 50s with espionage after arresting him in an Oslo restaurant over the weekend. He has since admitted selling information to Russian agents that PST considers to be state secrets.
State broadcaster NRK reported Monday night that the man, an employee of Oslo-based classification society DNV GL, has received “considerable amounts of cash” for the information. He was arrested Saturday evening while eating dinner in the company of a Russian intelligence officer.
“The arrest took place in a restaurant in Oslo without any drama,” PST prosecutor Line Nygaard told reporters. She said the information the Norwegian is accused of selling “could damage fundamental Norwegian interests.”
Denies criminal liability
The defendant reportedly has acknowledged receiving payments for information but he denies criminal liability. He’s been jailed for at least four weeks, in full isolation for the first two.
“The strict conditions of his confinement have to do with the risk of tampering with evidence,” Nygaard said.
The man’s defense attorney, Marianne Darre-Næss, told NRK that her client denies liability based on his own clarification that’s “more nuanced” than the charges against him.
PST has long viewed both Russia and China as the biggest threats to Norwegian security. Nygaard claimed that PST has reason to believe that the defendant has had contact with a Russian agent over a lengthy period of time, and that their meetings were kept secret.
She wouldn’t reveal further details of the arrest or what led to it. PST wouldn’t say how long they’d had the man under surveillance or how long he’d been meeting the Russia agent. PST stressed, however, that its charges against the man were serious.
Ministry stays mum
Nygaard wouldn’t say what will happen with the suspected Russian agent, nor would she say whether Norway’s foreign ministry has been involved in the case. PST directed questions about whether he’ll be expelled from Norway to the foreign ministry. The ministry told NRK Monday evening that it had been informed of the arrest but had no further comment.
Per Wiggo Richardsen, spokesman for DNV GL, confirmed that the defendant had been employed at the company formerly known as Det Norske Veritas for several years. His area of expertise was within Norway’s defense industry and Nygaard said his access to information “could be of great interest to other countries.”
DNV GL is cooperating with PST to “find out what’s happened,” reported NRK. “We’ll be working closely with the police to assist in their investigation,” Richardsen told NRK. “This is an extremely serious case and we need to get to the bottom of it.”