Statoil corruption case
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The Statoil corruption case (Norwegian: Statoils Horton-sak) refers to Norwegian oil company Statoil’s misconduct and extensive use of corruption in Iran in 2002/2003 in an attempt to secure lucrative oil contracts for the company in that country. This was mainly achieved by hiring the services of Horton Investments, an Iranian consultancy firm owned by Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, son of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani. Horton Investments was paid US$15.2 million by Statoil to influence important political figures in Iran to grant oil contracts to Statoil. The corruption scandal was uncovered by Norwegian paper Dagens Næringsliv on September 3, 2003. Although this case became infamous in the western media and Statoil was found guilty by the Norwegian courts no verdict was reported by the Iranian side regarding Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani's bribery case.
Verdict reached by the Norwegian court
On June 29, 2004 Statoil was found guilty of corruption by the Norwegian courts and ordered to pay NOK 20 million in fines. The Director for international operations Richard John Hubbard was also ordered to pay NOK 200,000 in fines for his involvement in the case. The uncovering of the corruption scandal also led to the resignation of Statoil Chairman Leif Terje Løddesøl, Statoil CEO Olav Fjell and Director for international operations Richard John Hubbard. The charges against Olav Fjell were dropped owing to insufficient evidence. Statoil agreed to pay the fines, but insisted that this did not imply any admittance of guilt on its part.
Verdict reached by the US court
On October 13, 2006 Statoil reached a settlement with US authorities for its involvement in the case and was ordered by a US court to pay US$21 million in fines. As part of the settlement agreement, Statoil had to agree to the following counts:
1. Statoil agreed that it had paid bribes to an Iranian public servant in June 2002 and January 2003, with the aim of securing contracts for Statoil in the development of stage 6,7,8 of the South Pars gas field in Iran.
2. Statoil agreed that bribes were paid to secure other contracts in the country, and to get hold of confidential information.
3. Statoil agreed that it had used wrong accounting procedures in order to hide the bribes from its records.
The settlement also stipulated that no Statoil employee or representative for the company could make any statements to the media that contradicted the verdict for the next three years.
Views on the verdicts
Former Iranian ambassador to Norway, and defector, Perviz Khazai, criticized Statoil strongly for its business methods in Iran. In a statement he said that,
This smells to high heavens of corruption. And this incident can contribute to the tarnishing of Norway's reputation.
He also went on record to say that the Rafsanjani family were known for their close links to corruption.
It is true that you can hardly get into these countries without using agents or advisers. But here, like anywhere else, you should know your agents. It is always dangerous to get involved with a consultant who has close contacts to the political elite.."
Helge Lund, who succeeded Olav Fjell as CEO of Statoil, has also publicly admitted that the corruption scandal tarnished Statoil and Norway's reputation abroad.