Four former top executives of Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara International (IW 1000/340) appeared on Monday before a court in Norway charged with "aggravated bribery" in Libya and India.
The four ex-Yara bosses -- two Norwegians, including former CEO Thorleif Enger, a Frenchman and a U.S. citizen -- pleaded not guilty before Oslo district court.
The charges against them date back to between 2004 and 2009 and have already resulted in the partly state-owned Yara paying a fine of 295 million kronor (US$38.5 million) in January 2014, a record for Norway.
The charges are related to the alleged payment of at least $5 million in bribes to the son of Libya's ex-oil minister serving under dictator Moamer Kadhafi, Shukri Ghanem, in connection with the construction of a fertilizer plant in Libya together with the National Oil Corp. (NOC) and the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA).
Ghanem was found dead in April 2012 in the Danube river in Vienna, where he was in exile after the fall of the Kadhafi regime. An investigation concluded that the 69-year-old Libyan had suffered a heart attack.
After discovering this case of alleged corruption, Yara's new management in 2011 informed the economic crimes unit of the Norwegian police, which opened an investigation.
It has uncovered other "unacceptable payments" in India, where the fertilizer manufacturer allegedly had agreed to pay the son of a senior official $3 million in connection with a joint venture that never materialized.
In addition to Enger, the case in Libya involves Tor Holba, director of a division of the company, an American Ken Wallace, a former legal director, and French citizen Daniel Clauw, who held various positions including director of operations.
The Indian part of the case concerns only Wallace, Clauw and Enger.
The trial is expected to last until March.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2015