Statoil embezzlers handed stiff jail terms

Three men have been found guilty of embezzling millions of kroner from the largely state-owned oil company Statoil.

The three men – a consultant for Statoil, an offshore oil and gas supplier, and his colleague – had worked together to bill Statoil for non-existent goods, but the energy company’s accountants went to police last year suspecting the consultant. The Stavanger district-court judge ordered stiff sentences and the payment of all lost funds.

Statoil’s tip brought police raids on locales in newly rich western-Norwegian oil towns Stavanger and Bergen. They acted on a phony invoice for 6 million kroner ($1 million).

The 47-year-old consultant behind the phony billing will do three and a half years of jail time and will have to pay 7 million kroner in damages on top of the embezzled amounts. The man had a long history of employment for Statoil and its predecessor entities.

“Large amounts have been used on bribes over a long period,” prosecutor Espen Haug told Stavanger Aftenbladet.

Though he’s appealing the sentence and some of the fines, the consultant had a quarter of his punishment dropped for cooperating with police.

The owner of the contracting Stavanger-area company got four years and has been denied the right to run a business for an unspecified period of time. He’s expected to appeal the ruling

A third man who worked for the disgraced entrepreneur decided on the spot to appeal his three-year sentence.

In his ruling, the judge said serious cases of corruption had to be judged harshly.

Statoil, meanwhile, has doubled in size in the past five years and its critics say it has too many peripheral, ex-employee consultants with no real job to do.

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‘Call me Equinor’: Statoil changes name

Norway's largest oil company Statoil officially changed its name to Equinor on Wednesday as it forges ahead with its drive into renewable energy.

'Call me Equinor': Statoil changes name
CEO Eldar Sætre presents the name change in Stavanger. Photo: Carina Johansen / NTB Scanpix

Proposed in March and adopted on Tuesday at the shareholders' general meeting, the name change allows the company to take a step back — at least in name — from the Norwegian state, which owns 67 percent of its shares, and from oil. 

Equinor is meant to combine the idea of equity and equilibrium (“equi”) and geographical origin (“nor”) for Norway.

Founded in 1972 to operate Norway's large oil fields, the company — which is listed on both the Oslo and New York stock exchanges — is now active in renewable energies, including wind farms off the UK coast.

The group has earmarked 15-20 percent of its investments to “new energy solutions” by 2030.

But this shift has been cold shouldered by environmentalists concerned about global warming as they accuse the company of “green washing”.

“Statoil name change to attract young talent will not be sufficient as long as Equinor is exploring in vulnerable areas, such as the Arctic or the Great Australian Bight,” tweeted Truls Gulowsen, leader for Greenpeace in Norway.

READ ALSO: Norway pledges to spend less oil money in new budget