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Tuesday
May222018

SFO brings new charges in Unaoil investigation

The UK Serious Fraud Office said Tuesday it has brought more charges against two individuals already facing trial as part of the Unaoil investigation.

Basil Al Jarah and Ziad Akle were both charged last week with conspiracy to give corrupt payments.

The payments were intended "to secure the award of a contract worth $733 million to Leighton Contractors Singapore PTE Ltd.," the SFO said.

The contract was for a project to build two oil pipelines in southern Iraq.

Leighton Singapore is a subsidiary of Leighton Holdings Ltd.

Leighton Holdings, based in Australia, changed its name in 2015 to CIMIC Group Limited (ASX:CIM).

In 2014, a report said leaked internal emails from Leighton Holdings warned that a $24 million “facilitation payment” linked to a 2010 Iraq contract would “attract attention” from auditors.

Other emails talk about plans by senior employees to make payments to “friends” in the ­Middle East and to inflate and backdate contracts to win work in Iraq.

Last week, Al Jarah and Akle were charged with two offenses of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, the SFO said. The charges were brought under the Criminal Law Act of 1977.

Both are scheduled to appear in Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London on May 23.

Akle, 43, was Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq. He lives in London

Al Jarah, 69, was Unaoil’s "Iraq partner," the SFO said. He lives in Hull (England).

Al Jarah is represented by Brown Rudnick. Akle's lawyers are from White & Case.

The SFO Tuesday thanked the Australian Federal Police "for the assistance it provided in connection with our investigation."

*   *   *

The SFO first charged Al Jarah and Aklethem in November 2017 with conspiracy to pay bribes to help Unaoil’s client SBM Offshore NV win contracts in Iraq.

That same month, the SFO also charged two former SBM executives with allegedly funneling bribes to officials in Iraq through Unaoil.

Paul Bond and Stephen Whiteley were both charged with conspiracy to make corrupt payments to secure contracts in Iraq for Unaoil’s client SBM Offshore.

Bond, 66, was formerly a Senior Sales Manager with SBM Offshore. He lives in France.

Whiteley, 63, was formerly a Vice President with SBM Offshore. He was also Unaoil’s General Territories Manager for Iraq, Kazakhstan, and Angola. He lives in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The alleged bribery happened between June 2005 and August 2011, the SFO said.

Netherlands-based SBM provides floating production systems for the oil and gas industry.

In the United States, SBM Offshore paid a criminal penalty of $238 million in late 2017 to resolve FCPA offenses in Brazil, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, and Iraq.

Two former former SBM executives pleaded guilty in the U.S. to bribing officials at Brazil’s Petrobras and two state-owned energy firms in Africa.

*     *     *

A report in March 2016 by Fairfax Media and the Huffington Post said Unaoil paid bribes on behalf of large companies in the oil and gas sector.

Monaco-based Unaoil has denied the allegations.

The SFO said Tuesday its Unaoil investigation is ongoing.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.