Page last updated at 15:17 GMT, Friday, 1 July 2005 16:17 UK

Norway tycoon gets jail for boat crime

By Jorn Madslien
BBC News business reporter

Many in business feel yachting sets them apart from the masses

Norway's richest man, Kjell Inge Roekke, has been given a 120-day jail sentence after bribing a Swedish maritime inspector who issued him with a seafaring certificate.

The Swedish skipper certificate was later converted to a Norwegian one that enabled him to captain his large, luxurious yacht.

"Mr Roekke is guilty of bribery and guilty of driving a big leisure boat without a licence," said Judge Torjus Gard in his judgement.

Mr Roekke, 46, the owner of the industrial giant Aker Kvaerner and a former owner of Wimbledon football club in London, is expected to serve 30 days in prison.

He was also fined 100,000 Norwegian kroner ($15,300; 8,500) and was ordered to pay 30,000 kroner costs.

His lawyers say they are considering an appeal.

Boating appeal

Many Norwegian businessmen feel yachting is what sets them apart from the masses.

The Norwegian King Harald V is a keen yachtsman, and such royal participation in the sport has raised the sport's snob appeal considerably, making it attractive for business professionals to get involved.

An undercover investigation by tabloid-style business daily Dagens Naeringsliv four years ago unveiled what it described as a scheme where businessmen bought skipper certificates, some of them for huge yachts, from a Swedish examiner.

Under normal circumstances, getting such licenses require extensive training courses that take up to 100 hours to complete, according to a qualified Swedish instructor.

Instead, several Norwegian businessmen simply forked out between 20,000 and 100,000 Norwegian kroner for their licences, the newspaper reported.

Norwegian police launched an investigation after the newspaper claimed Mr Roekke was one of the businessmen involved.

Wealthy and powerful

Mr Roekke is not only the wealthiest businessman in Norway - worth 95bn kroner according to one estimate - he is also the most flamboyant.

Kjell Inge Roekke in court in Oslo
There is little love lost between Mr Roekke and Norway's media

His exploits are subject to the constant scrutiny of Norwegian journalists whose readers love to read about the self-made tycoon's jet-set lifestyle.

And there is plenty to write about.

Mr Roekke's hobby is Formula One-style speedboat racing.

A few years ago he appeared - unshaven and wearing dark shades - on one of BBC Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson's shows.

His properties also attract attention.

His sprawling holiday cottages resemble Norwegian fairytale castles, and he is currently embroiled in a planning dispute relating to a 32-room villa he wants to build by the Oslo fjord.

New money

Mr Roekke is not a natural member of Norway's old-school establishment, whose members rarely flaunt their wealth.

Mr Roekke left school at 16 to work as a fisherman in Canada and elsewhere in the world, where he built a phenomenally lucrative sea-food empire that enabled him to return to Norway a wealthy and powerful man.

Following his return to Norway, Mr Roekke has proven himself to be a highly-skilled financier and industrialist who has become the country's leading employer.

But this has done little to sweeten the attitude of Norway's largely hostile media.


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