Biggest Corruption Trial in Norway Continues

Yara International ASA is a Norwegian chemical company. Its largest business area is the production of nitrogen fertilizer, however it also encompasses the production of dry ice, nitrates, ammonia, urea and other nitrogen-based chemicals.

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The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (ØKOKRIM) accuses former CEO of Norwegian Chemical Company, YARA and three former corporate executives have vouched for agreements to pay millions in bribes to senior officials in Libya and India. But all four refuse guilt.

– There is talk of bribes in millions to senior officials in India and Libya. We believe the decisions to give bribe was taken by the top management in Yara, says chief public prosecutor at Økokrim, Marianne Djupesland to Aftenposten.

The charges against them date back to between 2004 and 2009 and have already resulted in the partly state-owned Yara paying a fine of 295 million NOK  in January 2014. The fine was the largest ever of its kind in Norway. But Økokrim believes the investigation has revealed that also four of its former managers, including former CEO Thorleif Enger, can be held personally responsible for the corruption.

All four former Yara tops are accused of having contributed to gross corruption in connection with an agreement reached while Yara negotiated with the Libyan oil company National Oil Company (NOC) on cooperation on fertilizer production in Libya. According to Økokrim, Yara paid at least $ 5,000,000 to the son of Libya’s ex-oil minister serving under dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Shukri Ghanem, in connection with the construction of the fertilizer plant.

$ 1.5 million of the amount was paid on 29 March 2007 by Yara via the Swiss business partner Nitrochemt. Repayment was hidden by Yara in Switzerland through ammonia deliveries. 

Also the company was found guilty in gross corruption in India in connection with an agreement signed with Gurpreetesh Singh Maini, son of Jivtesh Singh Maini. Jivtesh Singh Maini was at the time a financial adviser in chemical and fertilizer ministry in India, who owned 67 percent of Yara negotiating partner Kribhco. The two companies negotiated a partnership in the fertilizer sector in India. Cooperation was never realized, but Yara paid $ 1 million on the basis of an invoice sent from Gurpreetesh Singh Maini to an account in Hong Kong on 16 October 2007. The account belonged to company Krystal Holdings & Investments Limited, which was registered in the tax haven of the British Virgin Islands and in the name of spouses to Jivtesh and Gurpreetesh Singh Maini.

The trial is expected to last until March.

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