Former Unaoil executive sentenced over $1.7 billion Iraq bribery plot

Former Unaoil executive sentenced over $1.7 billion Iraq bribery plot. (AFP)

SULAIMANI (ESTA) — A former executive at oil and gas consultancy Unaoil was sentenced in London to three years and four months in jail for paying multi-million dollar bribes to clinch $1.7 billion worth of oil projects in post-occupation Iraq.

Basil Al Jarah, Unaoil’s 71-year-old former country manager for Iraq, admitted to paying $17 million in bribes to secure contracts such as oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys in the Persian Gulf, as the war-torn country tried to shore up a battered economy after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Reuters reported on Thursday (October 8).

It is the third sentence handed down by a London judge after a five-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and U.S. authorities into how the prominent Ahsani family, which ran Unaoil, secured energy contracts for Western blue-chip clients in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

Former Unaoil managers Stephen Whiteley, 55, and 45-year-old Ziad Akle have already been sentenced to three and five years in jail respectively after a London trial.

“This was a classic case of corruption, where powerful men took advantage of the desperation and vulnerability of others to line their own pockets,” said SFO head Lisa Osofsky.

The SFO investigation originally centered on the Ahsanis, but failed extradition attempts culminating in a clash in Italy with U.S. prosecutors over the extradition of Saman Ahsani in 2018 thwarted the agency’s attempts to prosecute them in Britain.

British prosecutors alleged Iraqi-born Al Jarah, British-Lebanese Akle and Whiteley, who is British, conspired with others to bribe public officials at Iraq’s South Oil Company and, in Al Jarah’s case, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil.

Akle and Whiteley denied wrongdoing. Al Jarah pleaded guilty to five offences in 2019 and asked for further offences to be taken into consideration at his sentencing hearing on Thursday.

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