Saturday, October 31, 2020

Former Unaoil executives convicted of bribing Iraqi officials

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Two former managers of Monaco-based energy consultancy Unaoil have been convicted in Britain of bribing Iraqi officials to clinch lucrative oil projects as the war-ravaged country tried to boost exports after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

A London jury found British-Lebanese Ziad Akle, Unaoil’s former Iraq territory manager, and Stephen Whiteley, a British former manager for Iraq, Kazakhstan and Angola, guilty after a marathon 19 days of deliberations.

But the jury was not able to reach a verdict in the case against Paul Bond, a British one-time Middle East sales manager for Dutch-based oil and gas services company SBM Offshore (SBMO.AS). The Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Monday it would pursue a retrial.

All three men had denied any wrongdoing.

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The long-awaited decision prompted the judge to lift reporting restrictions on the verdicts after an unprecedented trial that was suspended in March — as the coronavirus brought parts of the criminal justice system to a halt — and restarted in May in a new court to allow jurors to socially distance.

“These men dishonestly and corruptly took advantage of a government reeling from dictatorship and occupation, and trying to reconstruct a war-torn state,” said SFO head Lisa Osofsky.

“They abused the system to cut out competitors and line their own pockets.”

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