The Government is looking into the alleged pay-off matter related to Norwegian firm Yara’s failed effort to set up a joint venture with the Indian fertiliser cooperative, Kribhco.

“We have read the report. We are looking into matter,” Fertiliser Secretary Shaktikanta Das told Business Line.

It may be noted that the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime (also known as Økokrim) has imposed a fine of $48 million on Yara for bribing the kin of senior Government official in India and others in Libya and Russia.

Media reports suggest that the said Government official was an Additional Secretary rank.

In the meantime, Government sources said that this matter is unlikely to be referred to the Central Bureau of Investigation or Central Bureau of Vigilance as a High Court had ruled that Kribhco, being a cooperative, cannot be investigated by these agencies. At the same time, the fertiliser firm denied any wrong-doing in the matter.

“There was only an intention for setting up a joint venture and nothing more than that. The intended joint venture did not take off because of the market condition,” a senior firm official said, while adding that it has nothing to do with any alleged payment made for talks to take place.

He also clarified that since the matter could not be taken forward, the cooperative has no role in the entire issue and its officials were not involved in any wrong-doing

Yara, in which the Norwegian Government holds stake, has acknowledged the “guilt” and accepted the penalty but said it is “severe”.

The company had said that an “unacceptable payment of $1 million to a consultant in India in 2007 is documented, related to negotiations with Kribhco’’.

The probe agency said the way bribes were hidden made the investigation difficult.

According to the company, the fine of NOK 270 million is related to historical irregularities linked to the establishment of Lifeco (Libya), an unrealised project in India and Yara’s activities in Switzerland.

“In addition Økokrim has imposed a confiscation of NOK 25 million related to earlier phosphate deliveries,” it added.

“This is a serious case. Both the company’s external investigation and the Økokrim investigation have uncovered unacceptable and disappointing behaviour,” Yara President and CEO Jørgen Ole Haslestad said.

Yara, which began its own probe in April 2011, had published its findings in June 2012.

Shishir.s@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on January 18, 2014)
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