Total recalled on Iraqi bribery charges

Total's Christophe de Margerie18 July 2013, News Wires – French oil giant, Total, is to face retrial over a controversial UN programme in Iraq after initially being acquitted only last week.

The oil giant will face charges of bribery after French prosecutors lodged an appeal against the acquittals involving the Oil-for-Food programme, Reuters reported.

Christophe de Margerie, the company’s chief executive, will not, however, be dragged back to court to himself face charges under the appeal which will also see former French interior minister Charles Pasqua avoid a retrial.

Prosecutors have also pushed for a retrial for oil trading stalwart Vitol as well as 14 others from the original list of 18 defendants.

Last week France’s criminal court found the defendants not guilty of complicity in an illegal scheme uncovered by a 2005 UN inquiry, whereby funds from the sale of otherwise-embargoed Iraqi oil meant for humanitarian supplies were used as bribes.

At the time of the alleged practices de Margerie was the explorer’s Middle East senior vice president. Total will only face bribery charges in the retrial as the other charges are not being contested.

The Paris-based major argued during the trial that there was no evidence to back up the allegations, and pointed out that France’s public prosecutor had twice recommended, in 2009 and 2010, that the case be dropped.

If found guilty, Total could have been fined up to $2.4 million, while de Margerie could have faced five years in prison and a fine of $482,000.

A UN-appointed independent inquiry committee headed by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volker reported in 2005 that it had uncovered wide-scale corruption by the former Hussein regime in the programme.

About 2200 companies from 60 countries were identified in the Volker report as being involved in purchases that featured illicit payments disguised as oil surcharges.

A separate prosecution case in France connected to the Oil-for-Food programme involving 14 other companies, including ­Renault Trucks, Legrand and Schneider Electric, is expected to reach trial this year.

– Upstream

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