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Norway's Yara fined $48 mln after cross-border bribery probe

Source: Wed, 15 Jan 2014 14:18 GMT
Author: Reuters
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By Terje Solsvik and Ole Petter Skonnord

OSLO, Jan 15 (Reuters) - Norwegian fertiliser firm Yara International YAR.OL has been fined 295 million crowns ($48.5 million) after a cross-border bribery investigation by the country's economic crime unit.

Yara, one of the world's biggest fertiliser firms, paid or agreed to pay $12 million in bribes between 2004 and 2009, the crime unit said as it announced the fine on Wednesday.

It said bribes were paid to senior government officials in India and Libya, including an oil minister of former Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, as well as to suppliers in Russia.

A decision on whether to prosecute individuals would be made shortly, it added.

Yara, which acknowledged its guilt and accepted the fine, initiated the investigation in 2011 after it uncovered "unacceptable payments" in Libya, India and by a Swiss subsidiary.

Police in 2012 charged Thorleif Enger, Yara's chief executive from 1999 to 2008, as well as former chief financial officer Hallgeir Storvik and former upstream chief Tor Holba - both of whom remain with the company in different roles.

However, there have been no indictments so far and all three men deny any wrongdoing.

"We have to look at the potential indictment and then we have to make our reviews," Yara chief executive Joergen Ole Haslestad said, when asked about the future of the individuals still working for the company.

The Norwegian government is Yara's top shareholder with a stake of 36.2 percent and Industry Minister Monica Maeland this month told Yara it must have zero tolerance for corruption and needed to "learn from its past errors".

Haslestad said Yara, which analysts estimate made around 85 billion crowns of sales last year, had introduced a lot of new compliance rules since he started in his role in October 2008.

"There is no doubt that we have zero tolerance for corruption, that is why we alerted police," he said.

"This will not happen again."

Haslestad added that he did not expect further consequences in other countries.

Yara shares were up 1.6 percent at 1400 GMT.

($1 = 6.0844 Norwegian krones)

(Editing by David Goodman and Mark Potter)

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