In 2005 it emerged that funds generated from the sale of Iraqi oil meant for the purchase of food had been misappropriated as kickbacks to prominent individuals, with bribes taken in the form of surcharges on the oil before it was sold on.
A UN-appointed independent inquiry committee reported in 2005 it had uncovered wide-scale corruption on behalf of the former Hussein regime, but it did not implicate either Total or its boss in corruption or bribery.
Prosecutors in Paris had argued that the companies and individual defendants, which included Total chief executive Christophe de Margerie and former interior minister Charles Pasqua, had knowingly participated in the illegal system that violated UN regulations, Reuters reported.
Total had faced a fine of up to $2.4 million while de Margerie, 61, had risked five years in prison and a fine of $482,000.
Total strenuously denied all charges, stating that “there are no facts to back up these allegations”.
De Margerie – who was Total’s senior vice president for the Middle East at the time – had also consistently denied any wrongdoing involving the programme, which ran from 1996 to 2003.
The Paris-headquartered oil explorer pointed out in the trial that France’s public prosecutor has twice recommended in 2009 and 2010 that the case be dropped.
The UN Oil-for-Food programme was instituted in 1996 with the aim of alleviating the hardship on Iraqi people stemming from sanctions imposed in 1990 after Iraq invaded Kuwait. It was suspended after the November 2003 invasion of Iraq.
Designed to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people, the oil-for-food programme allowed Iraq to sell some of its oil, despite the embargo imposed after the first Gulf War, in exchange for humanitarian goods.