The lengthy trial into corruption at fertilizer firm Yara International ended its 10th week with more charges and counter-charges hurled by defendants and attorneys. Yara former chief executive Thorleif Enger also lashed out at former board member Lone Fønss Schrøder, calling her earlier claims against him “incredible.”
Enger claimed that Schrøder’s descriptions of him as a man who wouldn’t accept criticism or answer questions are “groundless,” noting that she never formally filed any dissension in the minutes of board meetings or lodged written complaints. Former Yara chairman Øivind Lund has also rejected Schrøder’s charges as has Enger’s successor as CEO, Jørgen Ole Haslestad. In the end, it comes down to case of “his word against mine,” Schrøder told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Thursday.
Testimony earlier in the week detailed how the four defendants in the corruption case, which accuses Enger and three others of paying bribes to secure business for Yara in Libya and India, were paid a total of NOK 223 million in salary and stock options between 2004 when Yara was spun off from Norsk Hydro and 2010. Daniel Clauw, a former executive vice president who lives in France, was paid the most, nearly NOK 100 million, according to Norway’s state economic crimes unit Økokrim, which indicted Enger, Clauw and former executives Tor Holba and Ken Wallace. Clauw left Yara in 2007 while Enger, who was paid NOK 68.4 million, retired in 2008.
Last week found prosecutor Marianne Djupesland herself on the witness stand. She was asked to explain why representatives for the FBI in the US showed up during questioning of Wallace and allegedly threatened him with legal action in the US if he didn’t cooperate with Norwegian police. Wallace is a US citizen.
Djupesland said the Norwegian police and prosecutors were working with the US investigators, who were interested in the case not least since Yara stock is traded in the US. “They came also to give a signal to Wallace that they were aware of the case, no doubt about that,” Djupesland said. She also said that she was ready to indict the company itself when lawyer Cato Schiøtz suddenly called and said that Yara would accept the corruption charges against it. Yara therefore could get off with paying a fine, the largest in Norwegian history, and avoided having to meet in court.