AP: Statoil ASA on Thursday said it would accept a fine imposed by police for alleged corruption in Iran, but without admitting or denying any guilt in the case. In June, Norway's economic crime police, Oekokrim, said a US$15.2 million consulting deal that Statoil ASA made with Iran's Horton Investment Ltd. in June 2002 was an attempt to improperly influence Iranian oil officials. Associated Press

Statoil ASA on Thursday said it would accept a fine imposed by police for alleged corruption in Iran, but without admitting or denying any guilt in the case.

In June, Norway's economic crime police, Oekokrim, said a US$15.2 million consulting deal that Statoil ASA made with Iran's Horton Investment Ltd. in June 2002 was an attempt to improperly influence Iranian oil officials.

It levied fines of 20 million kroner (euro2.4 million, US$3 million) against Statoil, which the company's board on Thursday said it would pay to avoid going to court.

"Statoil has accepted the penalty without admitting or denying the charges," the company said in a statement. Statoil, which is state-controlled, has not been charged with any criminal wrongdoing in the case.

"Statoil accepts that there were violations of its own ethical policies and standards, and has taken a number of steps to prevent a similar situation from arising in the future," the company added.

Statoil made the consulting agreement with Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani, the son of former Iranian President Hashemi Rafsanjani, though his name did not appear in the paperwork, Oekokrim said. That raised suspicions that the money might have been intended to influence Iranian public officials.

Former Statoil chief executive Olav Fjell resigned in September 2003 because of the deal, but was cleared of any wrongdoing in June. Hubbard and then-board chairman Leif Terje Loeddesoel also resigned last year because of the scandal.

The deal is also being investigated by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Statoil was founded in 1972 to oversee Norway's oil interests. It was partly privatized in 2001 when the state sold 17.5 percent of its shares to investors.

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