Sandberg: “I have no relationship to Letnes’ company”

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Norwegian fisheries minister Per Sandberg says he travelled as a private person to Iran together with Baharah Letnes, and that he has nothing to do with the company of the latter.

“I have no relationship to this company. The ministry has never and will never have a relation to this company. This company has not exported or imported a single thing – not even a toothpick.”

That was Sandberg’s comment in the Norwegian newspaper, Dagsnytt Atten, a few hours after he returned home from a holiday in Iran together with Baharah Letnes. Letnes is behind the sole proprietorship B&H General Trading Company Bahareh Letnes, which according to the Brønnøysund Register Centre, is engaged in exporting of fish.

The holiday with Letnes has caused an uproar back home in Norway.

“I know exactly why the debate has arisen. It’s not about questioning the motive for the trip to Iran, but completely other reasons, and I will be addressing that at a different level of debate,” said Sandberg.

Sandberg was asked if he understood that someone could challenge his impartiality.

“No. I am responsible for maintaining impartiality. The moment this company appears at my table in one or another context, then it’s my responsibility to declare myself disqualified. That hasn’t happened.

Sandberg stressed a number of times that he was in the country as a private person, not as fisheries minister or deputy leader of the Progressive Party FrP. He said the holiday was planned at short notice, because other holiday plans had been “pulverised and ruined”. Sandberg had actually planned to travel to Turkey.

He confirmed that he had been invited to meet with Iranian authorities, but had turned this down.

Sandberg said he is looking forward to replying to Parliament. Opposition parties, SV and AP have requested a clarification concerning the trip.

“Parliament has doubts about the relationship to Letnes’ company. It has nothing to do with the trip. It has to do with the company and impartiality,” he said.