(Recasts with Statoil and police comments, adds payment amount)
OSLO, Feb 19 (Reuters) - Oil major Statoil met Norway’s white-collar crimes police unit this week to explain payments made to Angola’s state energy firm Sonangol, the Norwegian company and public officials said on Friday.
Statoil denied any wrongdoing, and the police said no criminal investigation had been launched.
The payments of 420 million Norwegian crowns ($48.9 million), made over a four-year period, were earmarked for the establishment of a research and technology centre, Oil Minister Tord Lien said in a letter to Norway’s parliament.
Statoil said the payments were appropriate and part of the company’s contractual obligation in Angola.
“The payments ... do not violate relevant anti-corruption legislation. This is not altered by the fact that there is little available information regarding the progress in setting up the research and technology centre,” the company wrote in a letter to Norway’s oil ministry.
Statoil said board Chairman Oeystein Loeseth and General Counsel Hans Henrik Klouman had met the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime on Tuesday.
“It’s natural for the police to contact us to ask for information in a case like this,” Statoil spokesman Baard Glad Pedersen told Reuters. “We’ve voluntarily and transparently informed them. But it’s important to emphasise that they have not launched an investigation of the matter,” he added.
The police confirmed it had asked Statoil to give it a briefing based on earlier media reports of the Angola payments.
“There is no ongoing investigation of this case. But it’s natural, also as part of the our preventive activities, to have such contact with companies,” the police unit said in a statement.
A Sonangol spokesman had no immediate comment.
Statoil has been present in Angola since 1991 where is produces about 200,000 barrels of oil per day, making it the biggest contributor to its portfolio outside of Norway.
The Norwegian government owns 67 percent of Statoil. ($1 = 8.5851 Norwegian crowns) (Reporting by Terje Solsvik and Stine Jacobsen; additional reporting by Herculano Coroado in Luanda; editing by Adrian Croft)