NITIN SETHIGARGI PARSAI
Norwegian criminal investigators have said fertilizer giant Yara illegally paid $1million to a top Indian bureaucrat’s son in return for his helping it secure a joint venture with public sector firm Krishak Bharati Cooperative Limited (Kribhco) documents made available by Norwegian prosecutors to The Hindushow.
Yara routed $1 million into an offshore account held on behalf of Gurpreetesh Singh Maini and his father, Finance Ministry Additional Secretary and Kribhco board member Jivtesh Singh Maini, according to the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime, Økokrim. “Both the offer and the payment constituted an improper advantage,” Økokrim’s Penalty Note to Yara states.
Yara, the world’s largest mineral fertilizer company, was fined $48.3 million for paying bribes to the Kribhco project in India, which eventually fell through, as well as separate projects in Libya and Switzerland.
“Our acknowledgement of guilt and acceptance of a fine reflect that the Økokrim findings are in line with those of our own investigation,” said Bernt Reitan, Chairman of the Board of Yara International. “The penalty is severe, but we accept it.” An official at Yara’s Indian office, in Pune, declined comment.
“In April 2007,” the Penalty Note issued by Økokrim states, “members of Yara’s senior management team, on behalf of Yara, offered to make a deal with Gurpreetesh Singh Maini, the son of Dr. Jivtesh Singh Maini. Dr. Maini was at that time Additional Secretary and Financial Advisor in the Ministry of Chemicals & Fertilizers and a member of the board of Kribhco.”
“The offer of a deal with Gurpreetesh Singh Maini was made in the context of Dr. Jivtesh Singh Maini’s position,” the note adds.
Mr. Gurpreetesh Singh Maini was to receive $3million for securing a joint venture with Kribhco, to be paid in instalments of “$1 million per year during the period 1 January 2007-31 December 2009.”
Yara, the document records, “transferred the amount to an account in Hong Kong belonging to the company Krystal Holdings & Investments Limited (British Virgin Islands), a company whose beneficial owners were the spouses of Jivtesh Singh Maini and Gurpreetesh Singh Maini.” Mr. Jivtesh Singh Maini did not respond to multiple calls and text messages to his cell-phone number.
The payoffs to the Mainis, according to Økokrim, were part of multiple illegal transactions benefitting ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Qadhafi’s Minister for Petroleum, Shukri Ghanem, and Russian corporate chief Vasily Loginov.
(Additional reporting by Sujay Mehdudia and Puja Mehra)