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Commodities

Norway's Aker Solutions sued by ex-employee amid Malaysia graft probe

KUALA LUMPUR (Reuters) - A former Malaysian employee of Norway’s largest oil services company Aker Solutions has sued the firm, saying it tried to stop her from speaking to authorities about its business practices, an accusation the company denies.

FILE PHOTO: Aker Solutions oil service company's logo is seen at their headquarters in Fornebu, Norway, June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

Seetha Kumarasamy, formerly a legal director with the firm, said in a Nov. 20 Kuala Lumpur court filing seen by Reuters that Aker Solutions had sued her in 2018 to suppress evidence and prevent her from speaking out amid a corruption probe into the firm’s dealings with state-owned energy firm Petronas.

Aker Solutions, in a court filing last week, denied the allegation and accused Seetha of breaching her confidentiality obligations to the firm.

Malaysia’s Anti-Corruption Commission (MACC) is investigating Aker Solutions for allegedly making false representations regarding the ownership of one of its Malaysian units in order to win licences from Petronas, sources have told Reuters.

Aker Solutions has denied wrongdoing, saying it had provided information on its company set-up and organisation, as well as access to its Kuala Lumpur offices, to the MACC.

Seetha’s lawsuit said Aker Solutions had sued her and obtained a court order to seize her laptop and gain access to her email accounts in 2018, after she was ordered by MACC to assist in its probe. It said she was fired in February 2018.

The lawsuit said Aker Solutions’ actions amounted to abuse of process and conspiracy. It sought unspecified damages for legal costs, anxiety and mental distress as well as loss of reputation and credibility.

Seetha’s lawyer Balan Nair Thamodaran confirmed that the lawsuit had been filed against Aker Solutions and three of its Malaysian units, adding that “the matter relates to the companies’ alleged improper business practices”.

In its response, Aker Solutions said its 2018 suit was aimed at protecting its private information and accused Seetha of divulging confidential matters to third parties.

It denied its legal actions were an abuse of process, saying that its suit was “independent of and do not concern the plaintiff’s communications with the MACC.”

Reuters was unable to verify the contents of Aker’s 2018 lawsuit as it was unavailable for public viewing.

Aker Solutions also said Petronas had carried out an audit on its unit, Aker Engineering Malaysia Sdn Bhd, in 2017 to verify its compliance with licensing requirements.

Aker Solutions said it had briefed Petronas officials on the unit’s shareholding and management structure. Aker Engineering’s license with Petronas was renewed in July 2018 for three years, it added.

The MACC did not respond to an emailed request for comment. Petronas and Aker Solutions declined comment.

Reporting by Rozanna Latiff; Editing by Kim Coghill

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