Cleared executive claims compensation

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Jo Lunder, the former CEO of VimpelCom who was cleared of charges tied to the massive corruption scandal at the company, is now demanding more than NOK 30 million in compensation from the state. Lunder feels the state should reimburse him for lost salary and bonus during the two-year investigation against him.

Jo Lunder, a former top executive with Norway’s Telenor, became CEO of Telenor’s partly owned mobile phone  VimpelCom in 2011. The company later admitted to corruption at its operations in Uzbekistan, where bribes were paid to the daughter of the country’s late president. Lunder approved one fo the payments, but has now been cleared of the charges filed against him for lack of evidence. PHOTO: VimpelCom

Lunder also claims the police should never have arrested him in November 2015 or held him in isolation before releasing him a few days later. He’s furious, and feels that the career he spent 30 years building was destroyed and his reputation tarnished by the serious charges against him.

Prosecutors at Norway’s economic crimes unit Økokrim announced last week that they were dropping the case against Lunder for lack of evidence. They defended the investigation, however, claiming they wouldn’t have been doing their jobs if they had failed to probe Lunder’s role in a case that led to the company itself admitting to corruption and paying a huge fine of nearly USD 800 million.

Now Økokrim faces compensation claims not just from Lunder but from other indignant former top executives of other Norwegian companies charged with corruption. They include Transaocean and Yara, even though the latter company also admitted to corruption and paid a large fine in Norway.

The largest compensation claim ever filed against the state in Norway amounted to NOK 29 million (USD 3.6 million). Lunder’s attorney Cato Schiøtz told newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) on Tuesday that “we will demand much more than that.”

Schiøtz noted, however, that state arbitrators who conduct initial reviews of compensation claims have a track record of awarding much less compensation than sought. “They have a tradition of being cheap,” he told DN. “It’s therefore highly probable that this will wind up in the courts.”

Schiøtz’ own legal fees, meanwhile, have been covered by VimpelCom’s insurance company. He said he and two colleagues have worked “several thousand hours” on Lunder’s case, at an hourly rate of NOK 3,500-4,000 per hour. He had no comment on whether VimpelCom’s insurance firm will also seek reimbursement from the state. Berglund