DUSHANBE (TCA) — Norway’s parliament is seeking answers from Norsk Hydro, a Norwegian aluminium and renewable energy company, about its dealings with a company registered in the Caribbean and the aluminium plant it owns and operates in Tajikistan, Aluminium Insider reported on March 5.
The investigation comes at a time when Norway’s legislative body is looking into allegations of corruption in several of the country’s state-owned businesses. Norway’s government says it has “zero tolerance” for corruption, and has tasked the parliament’s disciplinary committee to investigate allegations of the same.
The firm in question is Talco Management Ltd (TML), which is based in the British Virgin Islands. TML has been granted the exclusive right to conduct trade on the massive Talco plant, controlled by the authoritarian regime of Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon. According to one parliamentarian, the legislature is concerned that Norsk Hydro’s business with TML “displays a lack of openness that should not be found in a state-owned company.”
Dagens Næringsliv, a prominent Norwegian newspaper, has recently been writing extensively about Norsk Hydro’s dealings with TML. The newspaper alleges that Norsk Hydro has been tendering payment for almost twenty years to affiliated companies in various tax havens whose owners have gone to great lengths to remain unknown. Norsk Hydro says it cannot reveal the owners either, as they insist that they are bound by contract to keep such owners unnamed. Norwegian MP Monica Mæland sent Norsk Hydro a list of questions regarding its dealings, but neither she nor the rest of the committee were satisfied with the answers.
The disciplinary committee additionally seeks to determine whether Rakhmon is becoming wealthy due to its dealings with Norsk Hydro. They also want Norsk Hydro’s dealings to be “seen in the light of Norway’s anti-corruption laws, the parliament’s intentions behind the laws and Hydro’s own anti-corruption handbook.”
In its report to Norway’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries on March 7, signed by Norsk Hydro Chair of the Board of Directors Dag Mejdell, Hydro emphasized that the company has zero tolerance towards corruption. “In Tajikistan, Hydro has exclusively bought and sold products at market prices and did not engage any agents or intermediaries. Hydro has not negotiated with Tajikistan’s President, although we have had several meetings – as we also have meetings with government representatives in many countries where we operate or are engaged in trade. Nor has Hydro had dealings with companies in which the ownership has not been known,” the company said.