Norwegian fertilizer producer Yara International admitted it transferred Russian mining shares worth NOK 800 million (USD 130 million) to a company in Cyprus, despite the fact they still have no idea who owns the company. The transaction is linked to a corruption scandal which saw Yara hit with the biggest fine in Norwegian history last week.
The transfer was approved by Yara boss Jørgen Ole Haslestad in the autumn of 2011, just days after Norwegian white-collar crime unit Økokrim and Swiss authorities raided the company’s trading company Balderton in Geneva. Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv reported the transfer was made to Cyprus-based Hefeydd. It is linked to an important phosphate supply contract signed with Russian company Phosagro, procured by bribery in 2007 and extended in 2009.
Phosagro had the right to buy the shares transferred to Hefeydd. The value of the transaction triggered concerns when Yara’s accounting manager Alf Lundteigen and compliance chief Tormod Tingstad looked into the case in 2012. The pair encouraged Haslestad, who was under review for corruption at the time, to report the transaction to Økokrim. Yara told DN it still doesn’t know who owns Hefeydd.
After more than two years of investigation, Yara was last week fined NOK 295 million for gross corruption. More than NOK 100 million in “unacceptable commission payments” were discovered out of a Yara subsidiary in Switzerland. Yara has admitted to bribery in Libya, India and Russia, and its former chief executive Thorleif Enger and vice presidents Tor Holba, Daniel Clauw and Ken Wallace were accused of gross corruption.