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Tuesday, May 17, 2022

Mæland sees need for ethics meeting

Norway’s beleaguered trade minister, Monica Mæland, was hit with yet another major case involving questionable ethical behaviour by major Norwegian companies this week. Already dealing with corruption cases at such big, partially state-owned firms like Hydro, Telenor and Statoil, Mæland decided it wa time to remind business officials once again about the state’s anti-corruption policies.

Monica Mæland, Norway's government minister in charge of business and trade, is ultimately responsible for the state's 54 percent stake in Telenor. She called in the company's top officials for a meeting about the corruption suspicions swirling around the company. PHOTO: Nærings- og Fiskeri Departementet
Monica Mæland, Norway’s government minister in charge of business and trade, feels a need to call in around 30 corporate board leaders for another meeting on ethics and anti-corruption, to remind them of their obligations. PHOTO: Nærings- og Fiskeri Departementet

Mæland has had her hands full lately with errant board chairmen and chief executives, most of them middle-aged men who seem to have lost touch with the ethical standards expected of them in Norway. As questions continue to fly over Statoil’s operations in Angola, Hydro’s operations in Tadjikistan and Telenor’s involvement with VimpelCom in Uzbeikstan, now she needs to tackle allegations that Norway’s two biggest banks made it possible for its customers to evade taxes by using brass-plate companies set up in tax havens.

While other corruption investigations at Kongsberg Gruppen go on not long after Yara paid a huge fine for corruption in Libya and India, Mæland has summoned the board leaders of companies in which the state is a major stockholder to a meeting in June to discuss ethics and anti-corruption measures. The revelations this week about DNB’s involvement with tax havens makes the need for a meeting particularly timely, stated Mæland’s ministry.

The invitation has gone out to the leaders of around 30 companies and the meeting in June will follow up on an earlier meeting with the same theme.

“All these cases that have grabbed a lot of attention recently are tied to possible corruption or to broader ethical problems,” Mæland wrote in a press release Monday. “It can be worthwhile to meet again.”

Some warn that the information leaked from a Panama law firm about use of tax havens represents just a small portion of attempts to hide wealth abroad and avoid taxes. “Given the enormous scope of (the “Panama Papers”) case, it shows it’s not even just the tip of the iceberg, it’s a dusting of snow on it,” Sigrid Klæboe Jacobsen of the Tax Justice Network told newspaper Dagsavisen. “This is just one exposé from one law firm from one tax paradise.”

Annette Alstadsæter, a professor of economics specializing in taxes, agreed. “We will never be able to halt hidden fortunes or the use of tax havens entirely,” she said. “But the automatic exchange of information makes it more difficult, while criminal prosecution and use of public shame can be deterrents.”

newsinenglish.no/Nina Berglund



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