One current and two more former executives of Oslo-based fertilizer producer Yara International have been indicted as the bribery case involving the company continued to unfold on Friday. The defendant who’s still employed by the company has been put on leave but will continue to be paid his full salary until a verdict is reached.
Tor Holba was one of the top executives reporting to former Yara chief executive Thorleif Enger, who was indicted earlier in the week after the company itself was hit with the biggest corporate fine in Norwegian history. The company’s current board and management has admitted guilt in the bribery case and agreed to pay the NOK 295 million (USD 49 million) in fines.
Still getting paid
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Friday afternoon that the company also has agreed to keep paying Holba his salary even though he’s been released from his duties. His attorney told NRK that he’d been told by current Yara executives that they still had confidence in him.
The others indicted on Friday by Norway’s national white-collar crime unit Økokrim include Ken Wallace, Yara’s former chief legal counsel who left the company along with Enger in 2008, and Daniel Clauw, Yara’s former chief operating officer and an executive vice president.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported last fall that Wallace, an American citizen who worked for Yara in Oslo, was initially arrested and questioned by Norwegian authorities in Paris. In the middle of November 2012, Økokrim also reportedly questioned Wallace at the Norwegian Embassy in Brussels. During the session, reported DN, two representatives from the US’ FBI and the US Department of Justice, showed up and let Wallace know that US authorities also were following the Yara case and that he risked charges in the US as well.
Bribes in Libya, India and Russia
DN also reported, a year earlier, that Wallace had told Økokrim that several members of Yara’s top management allegedly were aware that bribes were paid in connection with the company’s establishment of operations in Libya in 2009. Shortly afterwards both Enger, Holba and former Yara’s former finance director Hallgeir Storvik were arrested and charged with corruption.
Storvik, who also still has a high-ranking position at Yara, has so far avoided indictment, but Økokrim also indicted Clauw on Friday, charging him along with his former colleagues of being involved with bribes paid in Libya. Yara actually set up its now-troubled Libyan venture in early 2009, after Enger, Wallace and Clauw had left the company and before the Gadhafi regime that they’d dealt with was toppled.
Økokrim believes, after a two-year investigation of Yara’s overseas business operations in India, Libya and Russia, that the former executives went along with the bribes paid to the son of Libya’s oil minister. Holba was said to have led the negotiations in Libya for Yara.
Holba’s high-profile defense attorney, John Christian Elden, stressed on Friday, though, that Holba was the one who brought the bribery allegations to light in the fall of 2008, just before Enger retired from the company. Elden said that Holba claims innocence.
Wallace, Clauw and Enger, meanwhile, are also charged with paying bribes in India. Negotiations on a business operation there, however, were eventually dropped.