The newspaper alleged an employee at TINE was treated to travel, spa visits, gifts, 145 dinners and 246 rounds of drinks over a four-year period from 2011-2015 by a seller at Tetra Pak.
Crime unit Økokrim
Following the article, TINE reported the matter to the state economic crime unit Økokrim.
Hanne Refsholt, CEO, TINE, said in a statement that following the DN report TINE immediately launched an internal investigation and decided to entrust the preliminary findings and evidence to the Norwegian authorities to make an assessment of whether there had been any illegal activity.
“TINE was made aware of the conditions of a supplier relationship during the period 2011-2015 that could be in conflict with Norwegian law. This has meant that the company contacted the Norwegian authorities on Wednesday, February 15,” he said.
“TINE takes very seriously the information obtained. We want transparency in this matter and will assist the Norwegian authorities with all the available information. We will also review procedures to ensure that our ethical guidelines are followed.”
The newspaper claims travel receipts and weekly claims for reimbursement reveal that the Tetra Pak seller and TINE director took at least 30 trips together from the spring of 2011 to the fall of 2015. Sometimes they traveled alone, other times with spouses and other TINE employees.
It claims the trips included Rio de Janeiro, London and Japan, among other destinations and that Tetra Pak also picked up the bill for 145 dinners that often included several other TINE employees.
Dairy and juice drinks
The cooperative, owned by farmers, controls an estimated 80% of the market in Norway for dairy products and juices and is the state “market regulator” that controls production and sets prices that attempt to yield good returns for all players in the supply chain.
The company is protected by high tariffs on imports and has enjoyed a good reputation in Norway apart from an incident in 2011 when it failed to produce enough butter for the Norwegian market, leading to a severe butter shortage just before Christmas.
Chris Huntley, senior VP, Communications, Tetra Pak, confirmed the report of an investigation is true and Norway’s economic and environmental crime unit, Økokrim has opened an investigation into the commercial relationship between TINE and a Tetra Pak employee.
“Since then we’ve had a team of senior leaders from within our company working with an external UK audit company to understand what has happened,” said Huntley.
“We haven’t got the full picture yet. We have identified a number of matters that need further investigation so our work continues. At the same time we are continuing to support Økokrim’s investigation and we remain committed to bringing clarity to the issue at the earliest opportunity.
“Our own internal and Økokrim’s investigations are now on-going and until they are complete we cannot provide specific details about what may or may not have happened. If we have anything to say we will, we cannot currently provide any more details.
“We do not know what length of time the investigation will take. We clearly have some work to and we cannot speculate on a timeframe.”
Attorney Helene Bærug Hansen, of the Norwegian authorities confirmed it has opened an investigation as a result of the inquiry.
She said the investigation will seek to disprove or confirm ‘the suspicion that exists’.
“In this connection, the questioning and gathering of evidence may be important,” she added.
“We have already met with investigators from Økokrim at Tetra Pak's offices at Lysaker in Oslo, where we secured documents.”
Prosecutors would not comment on whether anyone has been charged so far in the case, or how many people Økokrim will be questioning.
“Those involved deny any wrong doing and have agreed to fully cooperate with the Norwegian authorities,” said Hansen.
Eva Milton, director communications and Environment, Tetra Recart, based at Tetra Pak HQ in Sweden, said there has been a long-standing relationship between Tetra Pak and TINE and part of this business also includes dinners and social events.
“TINE has been our customer for many years, so there clearly are relationships when business is carried out between two companies,” she said.
“Have there been dinners? Of course, that’s part of business, but we must see whether everything has been correctly accounted for regarding entertainment and meals.”