December 2, 2016 / 10:06 AM / 3 years ago

Former Yara CEO acquitted of corruption, legal chief convicted

File Photo - Thorleif Enger, President and CEO of Norway's Yara International, makes a point during a plenary discussion on food insecurity at the World Economic Forum on Africa meeting in Cape Town, June 5, 2008. REUTERS/Mike Hutchings

OSLO (Reuters) - A Norwegian appeals court acquitted the former chief executive of fertiliser maker Yara, Thorleif Enger, and two other former top executives in a bribery case on Friday, reversing the verdicts of a lower court.

The Borgarting Appeals Court, a regional court in southeast Norway, upheld a guilty verdict on former chief legal officer Kendrick Wallace, an American, while Norwegian Enger was acquitted along with compatriot Tor Holba and Daniel Clauw, a French citizen.

In July 2015, all four had been sentenced to between two and three years in prison.

Prosecutors had accused the four of paying bribes to officials in India and Libya - including to 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.

“In total the case concerns agreements to pay bribes of more than $8 million,” the police said when launching its prosecution in 2014.

A jury in the appeals court rejected the guilty verdict on Enger, Holba and Clauw on Friday and its decision was immediately affirmed by judges in the case, who have the right, though rarely used, to reject verdicts and order retrials if they believe the jury is wrong.

Wallace, whose guilty verdict was upheld, will later learn whether his sentence of 2-1/2 years in prison will be maintained or changed.

The case started in 2011 when Yara, one of the world’s biggest nitrate fertiliser makers, contacted Norwegian authorities, saying it had uncovered cases of corruption dating to prior to 2008.

Oslo-based Yara acknowledged in 2014 that it had paid the bribes and agreed to pay a 295 million Norwegian crowns ($36 million) fine.

Reporting by Ole Petter Skonnord; writing by Stine Jacobsen; editing by Terje Solsvika and Susan Fenton

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