Billionaire Fredriksen Suspends CEO Lunder Amid Bribe Probe

The Fredriksen Group suspended Chief Executive Officer Jo Lunder after he was detained by Norwegian authorities in a bribery probe related to his former role as the top executive at VimpelCom Ltd.

“We have in consultation with Jo Lunder agreed that he be laid off from all his roles in the Fredriksen Group until further notice,” Harald Thorstein, an official at the company, said in a statement distributed by news agency NTB.

Fredriksen Group is the family company of billionaire John Fredriksen, who owns and controls investments in companies such as Seadrill Ltd., Frontline Ltd., Golden Ocean Group Ltd., and Marine Harvest ASA

Lunder was arrested at Oslo airport late Wednesday by the Norwegian National Authority for Investigation and Prosecution of Economic and Environmental Crime. He’s under investigation for suspicions relating to corruption during his time at VimpelCom, according to the police authority.

Oslo District Court on Friday denied a request by the prosecutors to keep Lunder in custody during their investigation, Cato Schioetz, his attorney, told state broadcaster NRK. That decision was appealed to the Court of Appeals, which means Lunder will remain in detention, according to NRK.

Lunder, who left VimpelCom in April, took over as CEO of the Fredriksen Group in September to head the management of Norwegian-born billionaire’s financial and industrial assets as well as new investments.

He stepped down from the board of North Atlantic Drilling Ltd., a subsidiary of Seadrill, after he came under investigation in Norway, the company said late Thursday.

Dutch, Swedish, Swiss and U.S. authorities have spent years probing graft allegations connected to contract wins in Uzbekistan. VimpelCom this week set aside $900 million to cover possible U.S. and Dutch fines.  Controlled by billionaire Mikhail Fridman and Norway’s Telenor ASA, VimpelCom faces questions into the role of Gulnara Karimova, daughter of the president of Uzbekistan, in the awarding of telecommunications contracts in the country. 

Telenor Chairman Svein Aaser was ousted last week after the Norwegian government said the company had failed to disclose all the information it had in the case during hearings earlier this year.

Norway’s Parliament this week decided to hold a new hearing into how Telenor, in which the state owns a 54 percent stake, handled information relating to VimpelCom. Industry Minister Monica Maeland said she had lost confidence in the chairman.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal. LEARN MORE