Four former Yara executives to be tried in bribery case

OSLO Fri Jan 17, 2014 7:40am EST

OSLO Jan 17 (Reuters) - Norwegian police said on Friday they had indicted four former executives of fertilizer maker Yara - including its former chief executive and top legal counsel - with paying about $8 million in bribes in Libya and India.

Police said that 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 and current Potash Corp director 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.

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

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

However, it said on Thursday that 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. Potash Corp 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 percent and the state-owned pension fund Folketrygdfondet, the firm's second-largest shareholder.