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Eight years after the beginning of the trial, Total has been found not guilty of corruption charges relating to the UN oil-for-food programme that was in place in Iraq from 1996-2003. 18 individuals were also cleared of all charges, including CEO Christophe de Margerie.
The Parisian court also acquitted Vitol, the Swiss oil trader, and Charles Pasqua, an ex- French interior minister, of charges of corrupting foreign public officials.
The oil-for-food programme was set up by the UN as a means for the Iraqi people to exchange their oil for humanitarian goods during the oil embargo on the country that had been put in place following the end of the first Gulf War.
Charges of corruption and misuse of assets had first been levied after the former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker issued a report in 2005 that claimed Iraq had added 10-30 percent surcharges to all barrels of oil sold under the scheme in order to illegally raise an extra $1.8 billion.
In the report Total was accused of bribery, complying with illegal Iraqi schemes, and manipulating and corrupting.
The charges were dropped after prosecutors were unable to identify which executives may have been aware and which weren’t, making it impossible to determine who was merely following orders, and who was giving them.
Jean Veil, Total’s lawyer, stated that “for eight years our clients have been anxiously awaiting this decision. Not influence peddling, not corruption, not misusing company assets - what we've been saying since the beginning.”
In May 2013 Total agreed to pay $398 million over charges that it had paid bribes to win oil and gas contracts in Iran.
By. Joao Peixe of Oilprice.com
Joao is a writer for Oilprice.com