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Statoil fined for breaching criminal code

An investigation was launched after Statoil’s controversial Iran contract was revealed, and now both the company and the former international director have been fined.

The Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crimes (Økokrim) has fined Statoil NOK 20 million (USD 2.9 million) for the Iran contract. The company’s former international director Richard Hubbard was fined NOK 200,000 (USD 29,400). The fines were given in accordance to the Norwegian criminal code 276c, according to information provided at a press conference at Økokrim Tuesday.

Statoil has been given a deadline of 30 days to review the penalty notice.

New law
The criminal code 276c regarding illegally influenced trade is a new code in the Norwegian law. It took effect as of July 4, 2003. The agreement with Horton Investment was entered June 2002, in other words, before the law took effect.

However, Økokrim still claims that the law can be used, as Statoil should have terminated its agreement the moment the law was instituted.

«After this date, Statoil was required to cancel this agreement,» said Lars Stoltenberg, chief public prosecutor.

Will hire lawyer
Statoil stated in a press release Tuesday that the board will hire a lawyer to assist the company to evaluate the further process in this case. The company is considering asking for an extension for the date when it is required to return its evaluation of the penalty notice.

Økokrim has informed Statoil that the agency has not located any evidence that the company has paid bribes to Iranian decision makers with the intent to obtain business advantages in Iran, and as a result the original charge is not standing.

Horton agreement
It is the so-called Horton agreement which made Økokrim raid Statoil’s main offices and charge the company with corruption. The case lead to the resignation of CEO Olav Fjell, who had been «acquitted» by Statoil’s board.

Chairman Erlend Løddesøl also had to resign as a result of the case.

The background was the agreement Statoil entered into with Horton Investments in June 2002. Horton was going to consult Statoil regarding business in Iran, and as payment the company was going to receive NOK 115 million (USD 17 million) over a period of ten years. Behind this was an agreement with the son of the former Iranian president.

After the agreement was signed, Statoil was awarded the operational responsibility for the development of parts of the gas field South Pars in Iran. The job was allegedly worth NOK 3 billion (USD 440 million).

Two months after the South Pars agreement was signed, Statoil sent off NOK 40 million (USD 5.88 million) to Horton Investments.

A couple of days ago Statoil’s own report on the case was issued. It concluded that the Horton agreement was definitely against Statoil’s internal regulations, but the company or its leaders had never acted in a way that made them guilty of breaking the law.

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