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BRIBERY

Norway next to Nigeria in fraud report

Norwegian businesses have reported one of the highest levels of corruption in the world, with one in four managers saying they had experienced a significant case of fraud in the last two years.

Norway next to Nigeria in fraud report
Yara, the Norwegian fertiliser company, in January received the highest fine in Norway's history for giving bribes in Libya, Russia and India. Photo: Yara
Only firms in countries notorious for corruption such as Nigeria, Egypt, Namibia and Kenya reported more fraud in the survey of 2,700 managers in 59 countries from accounting firm Ernst &Young (EY).
 
Their 2014 Global Fraud Survey showed that in Norway only six percent of firms thought fraud was widespread, yet 26 percent reported serious cases of fraud within the last two years.
 
That was the highest level in Europe alongside Germany, more than Russia (16 percent) and almost as much as Nigeria (30 percent). The average for western Europe was 12 percent.
 
Elisabeth Roscher, who heads Ernst & Young's fraud investigation operations in Norway, said that the results were "surprising". 
 

"I don't think that there is more economic crime in Norway compared to other countries, but there has been quite extensive media focus and public focus on instances of fraud and there have been some significant corruption cases, which might be the reason why we have had this result on the survey."
 
Norway has had a string of recent corporate bribery scandals: In January, Norwegian fertiliser company Yara was hit by a $48 million fine, the largest corporate fine in the country's history, for paying bribes in Libya, India and Russia; In 2011, three former employees of the firm Norconsult were convicted of bribing officials in Tanzania; and in 2004, Statoil, the majority state-controlled oil company, was  fined $2.8m for paying  bribes to secure contracts in Iran. 
 
Roscher said that in many ways Norway was in fact ahead of many other countries in combatting crime. 
 
"The focus on fraud has led to better control systems. There's a requirement under Norwegian law to have a whistleblower system in place, and this may lead to more cases." 
 
EY said in a statement: “Our survey shows that the risks businesses are facing are not receding. The incidence of fraud and reported levels of corruption are not declining.”
 
The polling company Ipsos interviewed 50 managers in Norway for the survey. 

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TELENOR

Telenor suspends four execs over Vimpelcom

Telenor on Wednesday suspended its finance director, legal head, and two other executives, as part of its deepening internal investigation into possible complicity with alleged corruption at VimpelCom, the Russian telecoms group.

Telenor suspends four execs over Vimpelcom
Telenor finance director Richard Olav Aa alongside chief executive Sigve Brekke at Telenor's latest results. Photo: Berit Roald / NTB scanpix
Telenor finance director Richard Olav Aa, General Cousel Pål Wien Espen, Fridtjof Rusten, the finance director of its Thai subsidiary, and Ole Bjorn Sjulstad, the head of Telenor Russia. 
 
Telenor chief executive Sigve Brekke stressed that neither Telenor, nor Deloitte, which has been hired to carry out the internal investigation, had any evidence that the four were aware of or involved in corruption at Vimpelcom. 
 
“We have no reason to believe that these have been involved in the alleged corruption in VimpelCom. They are trusted managers with a solid track record in Telenor,” he said. 
 
“This is being done in order that they are not able to question the independent investigation being conducted by Deloitte.” 
 
However, according to Cato Schiøtz, a lawyer for former VImpelcom chief executive Jo Lunder, the four executives had all been sent two e-mails in 30 September and 4 October 2011, in which an anonymous whistleblower expressed concerns over payments in connection with that Vimpelcom's licenses in Uzbekistan. 
 
“A Telenor employee in emails on 30 September and 4 October notified Telenor about concerns related to the payment Vimpelcom had carried out,” Shiøtz told VG .”In the emails, the employee said that he had alerted Jo Lunder but that the transaction had gone through anyway after Lunder had conducted surveys.” 
 
Rusten and Sjulstad have both previously served as Telenor nominees on Vimpelcom’s board, while Olav Aa and Pål Wien Espen have had key legal roles within the parent company. 
 
Telenor owns a 33 percent stake in the Russian operator, which is being investigated by US and Dutch authorities for allegedly paying bribes in order to gain access to the Uzbek telecoms market.