Investigation confirms ‘unacceptable’ payments at Yara

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Norwegian industrial firm Yara, which has been under both internal and criminal investigation for suspected bribery the past year, has been found to have made “unacceptable” payments in both India and Libya by the external lawyer hired to probe corruption suspicions by Yara itself.  Most of the alleged bribery at Yara, best known for its fertilizer products, occurred under previous management.

The investigation carried out by attorney Jan Fougner concluded that around NOK 100 million in “unacceptable” payments were made between 2006 and 2008 by a Swiss firm, Balderton, in which Yara acquired a 50 percent stake in 2006. Thorleif Enger was still chief executive at the time and claims he has no knowledge of the irregularities uncovered by Fougner.

Enger, a longtime executive in Norsk Hydro, became chief executive of Yara when it was formed through the spin-off of Hydro’s agricultural division in 2004. He retired in 2008, when Jørgen Ole Haslestad took over.

Haslestad has seemed keen to distance himself from the questionable payments made during Yara’s business expansion into India and Libya, stressing to newspaper Aftenposten, for example, that he instilled new ethical rules after taking over. “I feel now that what we do today is in line with my rules,” Haslestad told Aftenposten on Saturday.

Enger and two of his former executives who still work at Yara, Tor Holba and Hallgeir Storvik, have been charged with corruption by Norway’s white collar crime unit, Økokrim, which has not yet concluded its own investigation.

Views and News staff