The Oslo City Court has set aside three full months to hear the state’s corruption case against four former top executives of fertilizer producer Yara, one of Norway’s biggest and most international companies. The company itself avoided a lengthy court trial by agreeing to pay the largest fine for corruption in Norwegian history.
Yara agreed to pay NOK 295 million (USD 49 million) after being charged with bribing the son of the former oil minister in Libya, the son of a civil servant in India and two employees of the Russian company Phosagro, which supplies Yara production plants with raw materials.
The former chief executive of Yara, Thorleif Enger, and former top company executives Tor Holba, Daniel Clauw and Ken Wallace are all charged with serious corruption as well but have denied any wrongdoing. They thus plan to defend themselves in the lengthy trial now set to start on January 5.
They hope to convince the court that they can’t be blamed for the corruption uncovered in the company. They therefore must fend off claims of corruption that the company itself has admitted occurred. The case already has pitted the former executives against the current management of Yara.
Enger was CEO of Yara when the bribery payments were allegedly made. Wallace was chief legal counsel and Clauw headed operations. Holba, who still works for Yara, led the negotiations in Libya that resulted in the establishment of a joint venture plant there but he also claims to have been the whistle-blower on the alleged bribery payments. Holba told Enger about demands for payment and, after Enger’s retirement, told current Yara CEO Jørgen Ole Haslestad about them as well. Haslestad didn’t report the matter to police until more than two years later, however, when newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) started asking questions and first broke the news of the corruption suspicions.