MPs demand answers from Telenor

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Several key Members of Parliament aren’t satisfied with the information that state-controlled Telenor has revealed about its dealings with VimpelCom, the Russian mobile phone company in which Telenor has a large ownership stake. VimpelCom is currently under investigation for alleged corruption, and the MPs have lots of questions.

Some of the MPs, including those leading the parliament’s disciplinary committee, want to call Telenor chief executive Jon Fredrik Baksaas in for a hearing about the corruption allegations. They don’t think Trade Minister Monica Mæland of the Conservative Party, now responsible for the state’s investments in Norwegian companies, has gotten to the bottom of the issues involved in the Telenor-VimpelCom case.

Committee chairman, Labour Party veteran Martin Kolberg, already has proposed a hearing and this week, MP Michael Tetzschner from Mæland’s own Conservative Party himself, agreed with Kolberg. “We want to chart all the circumstances around VimpelCom’s business practice in Uzbekistan,” Tetzschner told newspaper Klassekampen. “Then we need to find out whether there’s been any deviation from the principles about good board monitoring by Telenor.”

Mæland said she couldn’t force more details from Baksaas or Telenor Chairman Svein Aaser at a meeting they had, because they’re subject to confidentiality clauses and can only answer to the investigators. “All the questions really must be addressed to the police,” Mæland told news bureau NTB. “But if I’m called into a hearing, I will of course meet up and answer the questions they have.”

The corruption investigation is the latest in a series of bribery scandals involving some of Norway’s biggest state-owned companies. The bribery allegations are embarrassing for a country that prides itself on ethics and principle.The state owns 67 percent of Telenor, which in turn owns 42 percent of VimpelCom. Telenor CEO Baksaas, accused of failing to answer questions for years about VimpelCom, also sits on VimpelCom’s board, which critics have called “an unfortunate double role.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund