OSLO, AUG. 24 -- Employes of a Norwegian arms firm who were involved in an illegal transfer of sensitive technology to the Soviet Union will go free because of a statute of limitations, Defense Minister Johan Joergen Holst said today.
But he said police were investigating other sales from the state arms firm Kongsberg Vaapenfabrikk that were channeled through foreign companies to Communist countries.
"The police have, through their investigations, identified a number of individuals who broke western export restrictions," Holst said. "But we are caught in the statute of limitations. It is too late to do anything."
One Kongsberg employe, a Briton, has been charged in the deal.
The employe, Bernhard Green, signed the export contract for the equipment and could be convicted of giving false information on an export license application under a Norwegian law that has a five-year statute of limitations. Green will not, however, be charged with breaking a Norwegian law prohibiting the sale of goods to foreign countries without government permission. That law has a two-year statute of limitations.
The deliveries in 1982 and 1983 helped the Soviet Union manufacture nearly silent submarine propellers, reportedly severely damaging NATO's superiority in antisubmarine warfare.
Police Chief Tore Johnsen, in charge of the Kongsberg probe, confirmed that companies in other countries may have been involved in channeling sensitive equipment to Communist countries.
The U.S. Defense Department suspended new contracts with Kongsberg. In June, Prime Minister Gro Harlem Brundtland apologized to President Reagan for the sale and promised tougher export laws.