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Sunday, July 14, 2024

Large firm caught in bribery concerns

One of Norway’s most international companies, fertilizer and industrial concern Yara, has alerted state authorities to concerns that Yara may have paid bribes in connection with its investment in a plant in Libya. Yara has launched its own investigation into the matter.

Demands for what Yara has called “irregular payments” were made in 2008 during negotiations leading up to Yara’s investment in Lifeco (Libyan Norwegian Fertilizer Co) in 2009. The demands were rejected, a Yara spokesman told newspaper Aftenposten, but raised concerns about similar demands allegedly made several years earlier.

Now Yara has decided to follow up on those concerns, and hired Norwegian attorney Jan Fougner to lead an external investigation. Yara also alerted Norwegian economic and environmental crime unit Økokrim to “the possibility that criminal offenses may have occurred before October 2008 in connection with the negotiations preceding the company’s investment in Libya.”

That would be before current Yara chief executive Jørgen Ole Haslestad took over from former CEO Thorleif Enger, raising speculation that Haslestad is keen to distance himself from any earlier “criminal offenses” at Yara. Haslestad is also dealing with problems arising from Yara’s investment in a plant at Burrup in Australia, which also was initiated under Enger’s command.

Yara owns 50 percent of Lifeco, with Libya’s National Oil Co and the Libyan Investment authority owning the other half. Lifeco in turn owns and operates ammonia and urea fertilizer plants at Marsa El Brega in Libya, which were shut down in February after the violent uprising against Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi began. They remain closed “until the situation has stabilized,” according to a statement from Yara.

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