Second former Unaoil executive sentenced for bribery in post-occupation Iraq

Stephen Whiteley, Unaoil‘s former territory manager for Iraq, has today become the second Unaoil executive to be sentenced for paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure a $55m contract to supply offshore mooring buoys. He was sentenced by HHJ Beddoe to 3 years’ imprisonment.

This follows the sentencing of his co-conspirator Ziad Akle on 23 July 2020, another former Iraq territory manager for Unaoil, upon whom HHJ Beddoe imposed a sentence of five years’ imprisonment.

The two men conspired with others to pay considerable bribes to public officials at the South Oil Company to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients to construct offshore mooring buoys in the Persian Gulf. The new buoys formed part of a series of state-run projects designed by the government of post-occupation Iraq to boost its economy by rebuilding the country’s oil industry and thereby expanding its oil export capacity.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Stephen Whiteley guilty on one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. In the same trial, his co-conspirator, Ziad Akle, was found guilty on two counts of conspiracy to give corrupt payments.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

Faced with a country in desperate need of reconstruction following years of military occupation, Stephen Whiteley, Ziad Akle and their co-conspirators saw an opportunity to swindle the fledgling state for their own ends.

“The flagrant greed and callous criminality exhibited by these men undermines the reputation and integrity of British business on the international stage. We will not cease in our mission to bring such people to justice.

The convictions followed the guilty pleas of co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah who, in July 2019, admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Al Jarah, who admitted to paying bribes totalling over $6million to secure contracts worth $800m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys, is due to be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court on 8 October 2020.

(Source: UK SFO)

By John Lee.

The UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has secured convictions against two former oil executives who conspired to give corrupt payments to secure contracts in Iraq.

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Ziad Akle guilty on two counts and Stephen Whiteley guilty on one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. The convictions follow the guilty pleas of co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah who, in July 2019, admitted five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments.

In the years of reconstruction following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003, the three men conspired with others to pay bribes to public officials at the Iraqi South Oil Company (SOC) and, and in Basil Al Jarah’s case the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, to secure oil contracts for Unaoil and its clients.

The post-occupation Iraqi government had commissioned the South Oil Company to run projects as part of a “Master Plan” to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry and thereby expand the country’s oil export capacity. This included the installation of offshore mooring buoys and new oil pipelines.

To ensure Unaoil benefitted from these state-run projects, the defendants and co-conspirators conspired to bribe public officials at the South Oil Company and Ministry of Oil to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients SBM Offshore. Basil Al Jarah also conspired to bribe public officials at the South Oil Company and the Ministry of Oil to secure contracts for Unaoil and its client Leighton Offshore.

Basil Al Jarah admitted to paying bribes totalling over $6million to secure contracts worth $800m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys. Ziad Akle and Stephen Whiteley were found guilty of paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure the $55m contract for the offshore mooring buoys.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

These men dishonestly and corruptly took advantage of a government reeling from dictatorship and occupation, and trying to reconstruct a war-torn state. They abused the system to cut out competitors and line their own pockets.

“It is our mission to pursue and bring to justice those who use criminal means to weaken the integrity of business.

The SFO would like to thank the Australian Federal Police, the French Parquet National Financier, the Police Judiciaires of the Principality of Monaco, the Fiscal Information and Investigation Service (FIOD) of the Netherlands, the United States Department of Justice, Greater Manchester Police, the Metropolitan Police, the National Crime Agency and West Mercia Constabulary for their valuable assistance in this case.

The men are due to be sentenced on 22 and 23 July 2020.

More here.

(Source: UK SFO)

By John Lee.

The Cabinet held its regular meeting in Baghdad on Tuesday under the chairmanship of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi.

At the start of the meeting, the Prime Minister extended his condolences and paid tribute to Dr. Hisham Al-Hashimi who was assassinated by a group of armed outlaws.

The Prime Minister said that the perpetrators of this crime will be pursued and brought to justice, as will those who have spilled the blood of other Iraqis.

The Prime Minister made it clear that he will not allow Iraq to be held to ransom by gangs, and that the government is determined to reassert the authority of the state and the rule of law.

The Prime Minister said that this government came into office in very challenging circumstances, and it will take the necessary action to fulfill the aspirations of Iraqis.

The Cabinet then received a briefing from the Minister of Health on the latest developments in relation to Covid-19, and the ongoing efforts to combat the pandemic.

Following discussions, the Cabinet decided to:

  • Approve a draft law on the pension rights of medical and health professionals who died as a result of their work caring for Covid-19 patients, and to submit it for parliamentary approval
  • Approve the recommendations of the Ministerial Council on Human Development on secondary education, including the creation of a new arts track in secondary education, in addition to the current science and humanities tracks
  • Commission the Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs to prepare an urgent study on the actual numbers of those entitled to social security benefits, the cost of their inclusion in the system, and the measures taken by the Ministry to address any abuse of the social security network
  • Authorise the Minister of Finance to sign a memorandum of understanding between the Ministry of Finance and the German Development Bank regarding a grant in the amount of 15,000,000 euros to equip five temporary hospitals for Covid-19 patients in various locations
  • Renew the licenses of mobile phone companies for five years, on conditions they pay 50% of their outstanding debt, and commit to introducing 4G commercial services by early 2021

The Cabinet also discussed other policies and draft laws and issued several directives.

(Source: Govt of Iraq)

By John Lee.

The trial has begun in London of three British businessmen accused of conspiring to pay bribes totalling $6m (£4.6m) to win contracts in Iraq worth $800 million.

According to the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO), Monaco-based Unaoil bribed Iraqi officials to help Dutch-based SBM Offshore [Single Buoy Moorings], and Singapore’s Leighton Offshore, to secure the contracts between 2005 and 2013.

The Guardian reports that Ziad Akle (44), Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq, Stephen Whiteley (64), who was a vice-president at SBM until 2009 before joining Unaoil as its manager for Iraq, and Paul Bond (67) SBM’s sales manager for the Middle East, have all pleaded not guilty.

The trial is expected to last three months.

(Sources: The Guardian, Bloomberg)

By John Lee.

Iraqi Defence Minister Najah al-Shammari is reportedly being investigated in Sweden for alleged crimes against humanity, and benefits fraud.

According to The Local, an unnamed Swedish-Iraqi lawyer told Svenska Dagbladet that he had reported al-Shammari, who it said is also a Swedish citizen, to police in October for his role in the shooting of hundreds of protesters during weeks of unrest.

The Minister is also suspected of claiming benefits in Sweden despite having returned to live in Iraq.

More here and here.

(Sources: The Local, Expressen)

In connection with the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO)’s ongoing investigation into Petrofac Limited and its subsidiaries (“Petrofac”), on 6 February 2019 David Lufkin, 51, a British national, and previously Global Head of Sales for Petrofac International Limited, pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to eleven counts of bribery, contrary to sections 1(1) and 1(2) of the Bribery Act 2010.

These offences relate to the making of corrupt offers to influence the award of contracts to Petrofac worth in excess of USD $730 million in Iraq and in excess of USD $3.5 billion in Saudi Arabia.

The charges included the following:

Payments of approximately USD $2.2 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to two agents in respect of a USD $329.7 million Engineering, Procurement and Construction (“EPC”) contract on the Badra oilfield in Iraq (the “Badra Phase One EPC contract”) awarded to Petrofac in February 2012.

Corrupt offers of payments were also made to an agent to influence the award of contract variations to the Badra Phase One EPC contract, and for the extension of the Badra Operations and Maintenance (“O&M”) contract.  Petrofac was unsuccessful in obtaining these contracts and no payments were made to the agent.

  • Fao [Faw] Terminal, Iraq

Payments of approximately USD $4 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to an agent in respect of an O&M contract on the Fao Terminal project in Iraq (the “Fao Terminal O&M contract”).  The Fao Terminal O&M contract, awarded to Petrofac in August 2012, together with yearly extensions awarded in 2013, 2014 and 2015, was worth approximately USD $400 million to Petrofac.

  • Saudi Arabia

Payments of approximately USD $45 million were made by Petrofac to its agent in respect of the following contracts awarded to Petrofac in Saudi Arabia, between July 2012 and November 2015:

  • Payments of approximately USD $5.8 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to its agent in respect of EPC contracts for the Petro Rabigh Phase II Petrochemical Expansion Project awarded in July 2012 and worth approximately USD $463 million;
  • Payments of approximately USD $21.4 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to its agent in respect of EPC contracts for Jazan Refinery and Terminal Project awarded in December 2012 and worth approximately USD $1.7 billion; and
  • Payments of approximately USD $19.5 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to its agent in respect of the EPC contract for a sulphur recovery plant as part of the Fadhili Gas Plant Project awarded in November 2015 and worth approximately USD $1.56 billion.

Corrupt offers of payments were also made to its agent for the award of other contracts at the time. Petrofac was unsuccessful in obtaining these contracts and no payments were made to its agent.

David Lufkin will be sentenced at a later date.

The SFO’s investigation into Petrofac’s use of agents in multiple jurisdictions, including Iraq and Saudi Arabia, is ongoing.

Individuals with information potentially relevant to this investigation are encouraged to contact the SFO through our secure and confidential reporting channelWhen providing information please quote ‘Petrofac Investigation’.  Please note that it would be of particular assistance if you could provide your contact details for any further queries or questions that we may have.

(Source: UK SFO)

In connection with the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO)’s ongoing investigation into Petrofac Limited and its subsidiaries (“Petrofac”), on 6 February 2019 David Lufkin, 51, a British national, and previously Global Head of Sales for Petrofac International Limited, pleaded guilty at Westminster Magistrates’ Court to eleven counts of bribery, contrary to sections 1(1) and 1(2) of the Bribery Act 2010.

These offences relate to the making of corrupt offers to influence the award of contracts to Petrofac worth in excess of USD $730 million in Iraq and in excess of USD $3.5 billion in Saudi Arabia.

The charges included the following:

Payments of approximately USD $2.2 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to two agents in respect of a USD $329.7 million Engineering, Procurement and Construction (“EPC”) contract on the Badra oilfield in Iraq (the “Badra Phase One EPC contract”) awarded to Petrofac in February 2012.

Corrupt offers of payments were also made to an agent to influence the award of contract variations to the Badra Phase One EPC contract, and for the extension of the Badra Operations and Maintenance (“O&M”) contract.  Petrofac was unsuccessful in obtaining these contracts and no payments were made to the agent.

  • Fao [Faw] Terminal, Iraq

Payments of approximately USD $4 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to an agent in respect of an O&M contract on the Fao Terminal project in Iraq (the “Fao Terminal O&M contract”).  The Fao Terminal O&M contract, awarded to Petrofac in August 2012, together with yearly extensions awarded in 2013, 2014 and 2015, was worth approximately USD $400 million to Petrofac.

  • Saudi Arabia

Payments of approximately USD $45 million were made by Petrofac to its agent in respect of the following contracts awarded to Petrofac in Saudi Arabia, between July 2012 and November 2015:

  • Payments of approximately USD $5.8 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to its agent in respect of EPC contracts for the Petro Rabigh Phase II Petrochemical Expansion Project awarded in July 2012 and worth approximately USD $463 million;
  • Payments of approximately USD $21.4 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to its agent in respect of EPC contracts for Jazan Refinery and Terminal Project awarded in December 2012 and worth approximately USD $1.7 billion; and
  • Payments of approximately USD $19.5 million were ultimately made by Petrofac to its agent in respect of the EPC contract for a sulphur recovery plant as part of the Fadhili Gas Plant Project awarded in November 2015 and worth approximately USD $1.56 billion.

Corrupt offers of payments were also made to its agent for the award of other contracts at the time. Petrofac was unsuccessful in obtaining these contracts and no payments were made to its agent.

David Lufkin will be sentenced at a later date.

The SFO’s investigation into Petrofac’s use of agents in multiple jurisdictions, including Iraq and Saudi Arabia, is ongoing.

Individuals with information potentially relevant to this investigation are encouraged to contact the SFO through our secure and confidential reporting channelWhen providing information please quote ‘Petrofac Investigation’.  Please note that it would be of particular assistance if you could provide your contact details for any further queries or questions that we may have.

(Source: UK SFO)

By Elena Kornienko.

Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

A few months ago I was approached by one of my LinkedIn connections, an expat based in Iraq, with an exciting training opportunity for one of the largest oil companies in the region.

Some messages back and forth to clarify details and I am asked to submit a proposal and training programs content. And at this point of time my inner voice of procurement professional with 17 years of buying goods and services for various companies started asking me questions:  “Why you have not received an official enquiry and all correspondence is LinkedIn based? “ – “Well, that’s how the modern world works these days! Social media became integral part of our lives”. My inner voice said: “Ok, fair enough. But why this person did not use corporate e-mail account?” – “Well, it is easier to keep correspondence on a subject in one place, and it will be easier to refer to all discussion details”.

And my inner voice was satisfied with that explanation too. But it kept asking me more questions: “If that is a formal inquiry for services, it have to come using company’s standard, and this company absolutely have templates and even automated procurement system…”, and the next question was “Submission of training materials to a client is always subject to signing “Non-disclosure agreement” where Intellectual Property Rights are clearly defined. So why it does not happen this time?”. And that was the time when I listened to my inner voice and started asking the same questions the potential counterpart. It did not take long to understand that it was a fraud inquiry with a purpose of stealing information which was covered by big and famous name…

It is not a secret that most of International Oil Companies, including the ones which operate in Iraq, have as a part of their contract template schedule “Code of Business Conduct and Ethics” and a failure to comply with all rules is considered as material breach of a contract which leads to further collection of damages or early termination. This contract schedule establishes company’s standards that include business practices and regulatory compliance that applies to all company’s employees.

These standards are expected to be followed by contractors as a part of commitment to execute contracts in trustful and faithful manner. For those of readers who did not come across with such contract articles, here just a few examples of what is typically covered: alcohol and drug policy, insider information trading, bribery, corruption, business records, confidential information, computer and system security, conflict of interest, gifts, engagement with media and information partners. This is typical content of “Code of Business Conduct and Ethics” which is adopted by most of the players in the Oil and Gas industry, however is it enough to make sure that all parties involved are acting in a good faith to all concerned?

The Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS) developed and implemented Corporate Code of Ethics with more focus for procurement professionals. It guides companies on ethical behavior in supply chain and promotes usage of procurement strategies to drive away unethical practices from the supply chain, assists to ensure that procurement decision minimize any negative impact, helps to put ethical policies and procedures in place to ensure compliance and the most important – mandates the education and training of all staff involved in sourcing, contractor selection and management to professional standards.  Great initiative that helps not only companies, but procurement professionals to set and follow rules of ethical procurement. It promotes professional behavior of procurement personnel who have the biggest exposure in a company for potential fraud and corruption.

While some of the companies are more advanced in implementing and following ethics standards in procurement, for others it is a new unknown road. Iraq has its own challenges in procurement and we can all contribute the development of ethics in supply chain by letting our inner voice ask questions even in circumstances when we feel great excitement for fantastic business opportunity.

Elena Kornienko has more than 15 years of professional experience in contracts, procurement and tendering in various roles from demand-identification to contract close-out. She has worked on major international oil and gas projects, including the Sakhalin-1 and Sakhalin-2 fields in Russia, and Iraq’s West Qurna-2. Now based in Dubai, she provides consultancy services to the oil and gas industry. Elena is a fluent English and Russian speaker, and a graduate of the Moscow State University of Commerce, holding a degree in Economics. She also graduated with distinction from the School of Business Administration at Portland State University and holds a CIPS diploma.

(Picture: Ethics signpost, from 3D-creation/Shutterstock)

The co-owners and chief operating officer of one of the largest Iraqi dinar exchangers in the United States were convicted last month by a federal jury following a five-week trial.

Tyson Rhame, James Shaw, and Frank Bell were each convicted of mail and wire fraud conspiracy, as well as multiple counts of mail and wire fraud. Rhame and Bell were also convicted of making false statements to federal law enforcement agents.

“These executives engaged in a lengthy campaign to defraud investors by spreading lies about the investment potential of the Iraqi dinar,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine. “These convictions resulted from years of investigation, which included dozens of electronic and physical search warrants, hundreds of witness interviews, and extensive financial analysis.”

“The conviction of these three defendants is the result of an extensive effort by the government to protect investors from those who make unsubstantiated claims about the potential revaluation of a foreign currency,” said Chris Hacker, Special Agent in Charge of FBI Atlanta. “Their greed led them to steal the hopes of unsuspecting investors and ultimately led them to their demise. The FBI and its partners make it a priority to root out and punish anyone who preys on investors for their own selfish desires.”

“This was a trial about fraudulent inducements, conspiracy, investment fraud and outright greed,” said Thomas J. Holloman, Special Agent in Charge, IRS-Criminal Investigation. “Rhame, Shaw, and Bell saw an opportunity to build their personal net worth and business position in the currency market by seizing on investors’ desire for high returns on their investments. At the end of the trial, the jury agreed with the government and found the Sterling Currency Group co-owners and chief operating officer guilty of the conspiracy and the underlying frauds. Despite the challenges these complex cases present, IRS-CI is committed to working with our partners at the FBI, and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to show white-collar fraud is still an investigative priority.”

According to Acting U.S Attorney Erskine, the charges, and other information presented in court: Rhame and Shaw owned and operated the Sterling Currency Group, which was once one of the country’s largest sellers of the Iraqi dinar. Bell was Sterling’s chief operating officer. Between 2010 and June 2015, Sterling grossed over $600 million in revenue from the sale of the Iraqi dinar and other currencies, while Rhame and Shaw received over $180 million in distributions.

The evidence at trial established that the defendants took steps to make investors believe they would get rich by investing in the Iraqi dinar. At one point, Rhame posted information on Sterling’s website falsely suggesting that the dinar was about to revalue. At other times, Rhame and Bell falsely claimed that Sterling would cash out investors at airports around the country following a dinar “revaluation.” The defendants also paid substantial sums of money to third parties who in turn spread false information about the dinar on conference calls and Internet chat rooms.

Tyson Rhame, 53, and James Shaw, 55, both of Atlanta, Georgia, and Frank Bell, 55, of Decatur, Georgia, were convicted of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and multiple mail and wire fraud counts. Rhame and Bell were also convicted of making false statements to federal agents regarding Sterling’s operations. The jury acquitted the defendants of money laundering charges. A fourth defendant, Terrence Keller, was acquitted of all charges at trial.

(Source: US Dept of Justice)

Security forces have reportedly confiscated many USD and Euro bills and 88 million Iraqi Dinars (IQD) in counterfeit banknotes in Erbil province since the start of 2018.

According to Kurdistan24, 100 suspects have been arrested for dealing and trading in counterfeit dinar.

Full story here.

(Source: Kurdistan24)