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Four ex-Yara executives to be tried in bribery case

Norwegian police said on Friday they had indicted four former executives of fertilizer maker Yara — including its former CEO and top legal counsel — with paying about US$8 million in bribes in Libya and India.

Police said Yara executives bribed officials, including the family of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s oil minister and the family of a financial adviser in India’s ministry of chemicals and fertilizers, committing gross corruption, which carries a maximum prison term of 10 years.

Oekokrim — the economic crime unit of the national police — said on Friday it had indicted former CEO Thorleif Enger, former chief legal officer Kendrick Wallace, former head of upstream activities Tor Holba and former deputy CEO Daniel Clauw for either directly negotiating the payments or consenting as the firm tried to establish joint ventures in the two countries.

Enger, Holba and former chief financial officer Hallgeir Storvik were first detained and charged in May 2012. The charges against Storvik have been dropped, Yara said in a separate statement on Friday.

Clauw is now CEO of Strategie Conseil Developpement (SCD), a French private fund and chemical industry advisory firm, and has been a director on the board of Saskatoon-based PotashCorp since 2012. He serves on the board’s safety, health and environment committee and its audit committee.

The formal indictment means the case will now go to trial.

Yara, one of the world’s biggest fertilizer companies, was fined 295 million crowns (US$48.5 million) in the case earlier this week. The firm acknowledged improper payments had been made and accepted the fine.

However, it said Thursday all persons involved in the case “are considered innocent until proven by a court to be otherwise.”

Enger and Holba have denied all charges. Wallace and Clauw could not immediately be reached for comment. PotashCorp declined to comment.

Holba, the only of the four to remain with Yara, has been placed on paid leave.

Yara launched an internal investigation in 2011 saying that irregularities might have occurred before 2008, then contacted the police.

The case has attracted strong criticism from some Yara shareholders, including the government, which holds 36.2 per cent and the state-owned pension fund Folketrygdfondet, the firm’s second-largest shareholder. — Reuters

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