UK Starts Criminal Proceedings Against Unaoil For Corruption In Iraq

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By Tsvetana Paraskova

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) said on Tuesday that it had begun criminal proceedings against oil consultancies Unaoil Monaco SAM and Unaoil Ltd as part of an ongoing prosecution for alleged conspiracy to make corrupt payments to secure contracts in Iraq.

The SFO launched its probe into Unaoil, run by the Ahsani family, in 2016, saying that “The SFO is conducting a criminal investigation into the activities of Unaoil, its officers, its employees and its agents in connection with suspected offences of bribery, corruption and money laundering.”

Since 2016, the SFO has charged four individuals in relation to alleged corrupt payments to secure the award of contracts in Iraq to Unaoil’s client SBM Offshore.

In November 2017, the SFO charged Ziad Akle and Basil Al Jarah, Unaoil’s ex territory manager for Iraq and Unaoil’s ex Iraq partner, respectively, with conspiracy to make corrupt payments to secure the award of contracts in Iraq to Unaoil’s client SBM Offshore.

Unaoil Ltd has been summonsed with two offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, the SFO said on Tuesday. Those corrupt payments were allegedly made to secure the award of a contract worth US$733 million to Leighton Contractors Singapore PTE Ltd for a project to build two oil pipelines in southern Iraq.

Unaoil Monaco SAM and Unaoil are summonsed to appear at Westminster Magistrates’ Court on July 18.

The Ahsani family said in a statement carried by the Financial Times that it “will take the time to carefully scrutinise these charges if they ever materialise.”

“We have seen the SFO’s announcement of charges against two companies today but we have yet to receive any summonses. The SFO is targeting two companies that are in the process of being liquidated – those liquidations being as a result of the SFO’s protracted investigation,” the Ahsani family’s statement adds.

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