OSLO: The largest corruption trial in Norway’s history, involving charges of enticement at Norwegian fertilizer giant Yara International, got underway in an Oslo courtroom on Monday. It’s not a happy start to the New Year for the former Yara executives now defending themselves, after the company itself avoided further prosecution by accepting a record high fine early last year.
The stage seemed set for an airing of dirty laundry unlike any other seen in Norwegian business. The case targets high-level officials at a company, in which the Norwegian state owns a major stake that was keen to do business in Libya, India and many other countries. According to prosecutors, the Yara executives allegedly allowed or overlooked large payments made, for example, to the son of Muammar Gadhafi’s oil minister in Libya and to a mysterious company based in a tax haven.
Whistle-blowers within Yara, meanwhile, were allegedly ignored and now former chief executives are pointing the finger at each other. They’re represented by some of Norway’s most prominent attorneys and the list of those called to testify at the trial contains the names of several prominent Norwegian business leaders, past and present.