Newspaper Aftenposten reported on Thursday that it had documentation showing how a Swiss trading company allegedly paid more than USD 2 million bribes on behalf of Oslo-based fertilizer firm Yara. Both Yara and state prosecutors, however, claim the bribes were part of the huge corruption case for which Yara has already paid the biggest fine ever imposed on a Norwegian company.
Aftenposten, which has access to documents leaked from a Panamanian law firm, published stories detailing how trading firm Balderton had paid the bribes to companies set up on behalf of two sales executives at the Russian company EuroChem. Yara bought a large stake in Balderton, which also played a major role in the charges brought against Yara for corruption in Libya and India.
Aftenposten claimed that Norwegian officials had failed to investigate the alleged bribes to EuroChem employees, but Marianne Djupesland, prosecutor in the Yara corruption case, said both Yara and Norwegian prosecutors were aware of the more than NOK 100 million in illegal “commissions” paid by Balderton. Those paid to the companies set up by the two EuroChem employees, she said, were part of that amount. Both of the EuroChem employees were later fired and sued by EuroChem itself when the illegal payments came to light.
Djupesland said there were several reasons why those specific alleged bribes weren’t probed by the Norwegian authorities, not least because they involved payments by officials of a Swiss company to Russian citizens who may not have had direct ties to Norwegian territory, Norwegian companies or Norwegian citizens when they were made. She stressed that the corruption case against Yara was closed after Yara admitted guilt on several counts and paid a record fine of NOK 295 million in January 2014. Several former top Yara executives were later convicted and their appeals are due to be heard later this year.