Hungarian daily economics newspaper Napi Gazdasag reports that shares in Mol Nyrt fell sharply after an article published last week speculated that the Norwegian Sovereign Wealth Fund was considering selling its 1.64 per cent stake in in Mol. (The earlier article was subsequently removed from Napi.hu’s website). According to Napi, Mol subsequently denied there was any basis for believing the Fund’s ethical committee might recommend it divest itself of shares in Mol over allegations that Mol paid a bribe to former Croatian prime minister Ivo Sanader in 2009.
Sanader was convicted last year by the first level Croatian court for accepting a USD 10 million bribe and is being held in preventative custody pending his appeal. In exchange for the bribe Sanader is alleged to have arranged for INA’s largest shareholder, Mol, to take over management of the company in 2009. Mol’s CEO and Chairman Zsolt Hernadi has refused to speak to Croatian prosecutors about his alleged involvement, prompting Croatian prosecutors to issue an international warrant for his arrest earlier this month. Hungarian authorities are refusing to turn Hernadi over to Croatian authorities on the grounds that they have found no evidence of any wrongdoing on Hernadi’s part.
Napi reports that the fund has never divested itself of shares for strictly ethical reasons but that it did put Siemens and Alstom on a watch list after those companies were formally accused of paying bribes to foreign officials. Both companies were subsequently removed from the Fund’s watch list–in Siemens’ case after paying over EUR 1 billion in fines and penalties to European and American regulators.
According to financial news service provider Bloomberg.com the Norway Fund owned EUR 94.3 million worth of shares in Mol at the end of 2012.
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