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Ex-oil executive sentenced in Iraq bribery case

Iraq-born British businessman Basil Al-Jarah in London, UK on 7 December 2017 [DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images]
Iraq-born British businessman Basil Al-Jarah in London, UK on 7 December 2017 [DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP/Getty Images]

A former executive at Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil has been sentenced to three years and four months in prison for bribing public officials in Iraq to seal deals worth $1.7 billion between 2005 and 2013, Reuters has reported.

Iraq-born British businessman Basil Al-Jarah admitted last year to paying $17 million in bribes to secure contracts to construct oil pipelines, an oil platform and offshore mooring buoys in the Gulf, following the fall of President Saddam Hussein in 2003. Iraq was trying to shore up its battered economy at the time.

This was the third case to be dealt with by a London judge after a five-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and US authorities into how the prominent Ahsani family, which ran Unaoil, secured contracts for blue-chip clients across the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

Former managers Stephen Whiteley and Ziad Akle have already been sentenced to three and five years in prison respectively. Following Akle's sentencing in July, SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said, "Ziad Akle and his co-conspirators exploited a country reeling from years of dictatorship and military occupation to line his own pockets and win business. It is this combination of greed and heartless avarice that led to these convictions."

READ: Official: 90% of Iraq's customs revenue goes to corrupt people

Akle and Whiteley denied any wrongdoing but were found guilty of conspiring to pay more than $500,000 in bribes to win a $55 million oil contract. Both intend to appeal against their convictions, say their lawyers.

According to Al Jarah's lawyer, John Milner, he was disappointed that the court had not agreed to a suspended sentence and "chose to ignore the position of the owners of Unaoil… (who are) unlikely to share Mr Al Jarah's fate."

The Ashani family who owned and controlled Unaoil have denied the allegations, describing them as malicious and damaging. In June it was reported that the SFO had decided to drop its investigation into the family's affairs but declined to explain why. However, in 2018, Monaco's Prince Albert II rejected a request by the SFO to extradite Saman Ashani, the company's former commercial director following an "adverse opinion" from Monaco's Court of Appeal.

READ: Iraq forms high commission to probe attacks on diplomatic missions

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