A long-time purchasing director for Norway’s dominant dairy cooperative, Tine, has been indicted on charges he knowingly accepted bribes and then tried to hide it from the rest of Tine’s management. He now must defend himself against charges of aggravated corruption.
An official of the packaging firm Tetra Pak Norge, which supplies drink cartons to Tine, was also indicted in the case, which made headlines in Norway last year. The alleged corruption took place from 2011 to 2015, when a Tetra Pak employee in charge of customer relations covered the costs of various hotel stays, tickets to special events, meals and drinks for the Tine director. The alleged bribery was valued at nearly NOK 300,000.
Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) had reported on the corruption suspicions last year, prompting Tine officials to alert Økokrim. Tetra Pak Norge now faces a fine of NOK 3 million, which it has agreed to pay in order “to focus our time and energy on customers and consumers” in Norway.
Prosecutor Helene Bærug Hansen told DN that the indictment maintains that benefits were offered to influence the receiver in his role as purchasing chief at Tine, and that he was fully aware of that.” Many of the benefits, including travel and meals, were not relevant to the work at hand, according to the indictment.
“Even though we are disappointed over Økokrim’s decision in this case, we acknowledge that our control routines didn’t function in some cases,” Tetra Pak wrote in a press release. “The company did not manage to uncover how one of our former employees broke our internal guidelines and wrongly claimed private costs as representation costs.”
Tetra Pak claims it never tried to bribe the Tine official, arguing that “the problem was that two people didn’t manage to distinguish between their friendship and business relations.”
DN reported that Tine, which is owed by farmers and controls around 80 percent of the dairy market in Norway, has conducted its own internal investigation and uncovered violations of ethical guidelines that have “had personnel consequences for some employees.” DN was told that several people “have disappeared” from Tine during the past year.
Tine chief executive Hanne Refsholt called the corruption case “sad for everyone involved, but it’s important it’s come to a conclusion.” She told DN she was glad the company reported the corruption suspicions to Økokrim. “It’s sad that DN uncovered them, but it was important to act on the information we received,” Refsholt said.