Scottish court rules PM’s suspension of parliament ‘unlawful’

Once seen as a pillar of democracy, Britain’s Parliament has been thrown into disarray since the Brexit referendum. (File/AFP/Jessica Taylor/UK Parliament)
Updated 11 September 2019

Scottish court rules PM’s suspension of parliament ‘unlawful’

  • The British government has said it will appeal against the court ruling
  • The government is accused of trying to delay any action that would hinder Brexit

EDINBURGH: Scotland’s appeal court on Wednesday declared British Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s decision to suspend parliament “unlawful,” in a case brought by lawmakers and set to be appealed by the government.
The decision overturns a previous Scottish ruling which had paved the way for Johnson to prorogue parliament on Tuesday until October 14 — just a few weeks before Britain is due to leave the European Union.
However, the government immediately said it would appeal the decision to the supreme court in London.
A lawyer involved in bringing the case in Scotland suggested it may be heard as soon as next Tuesday.
Judges in the Inner House, the supreme civil court in Scotland, ruled that Johnson’s advice to the queen to prorogue parliament “was unlawful because it had the purpose of stymying parliament,” according to a summary.
The case had been brought by 78 British lawmakers, who accuse Johnson of trying to silence critics of his plan to leave the EU next month without a deal with Brussels.
A government spokesman: “We are disappointed by today’s decision, and will appeal to the UK Supreme Court.
“The UK government needs to bring forward a strong domestic legislative agenda. Proroguing parliament is the legal and necessary way of delivering this.”
It noted that a separate case brought at the high court in London last week against prorogation had failed.
A lawyer involved in the Scottish case against the government, Jolyon Maugham, tweeted that it would be considered in Britain’s Supreme Court starting on Tuesday.
The court could not be reached for immediate comment.
Suspending parliament to start a new legislative session is normally a routine event that takes place most years.
But Johnson’s decision is controversial because it would leave parliament without a voice for five weeks in the run-up to Brexit, with the divorce terms still in doubt.


Former Unaoil managers convicted in Britain of Iraq bribery

Updated 13 July 2020

Former Unaoil managers convicted in Britain of Iraq bribery

  • The verdict marks a milestone in the British arm of a 4-year, global inquiry

LONDON: Two former managers of Monaco-based energy consultancy Unaoil have been convicted in Britain of bribing Iraqi officials to clinch lucrative oil projects as the war-ravaged country tried to boost exports after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
The verdict marks a milestone in the British arm of a four-year, global inquiry into how Unaoil, once run by the prominent Ahsani family, helped major Western companies secure energy projects across the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa over two decades.
A London jury found British-Lebanese Ziad Akle, Unaoil’s former Iraq territory manager, and Stephen Whiteley, a British former manager for Iraq, Kazakhstan and Angola, guilty of plotting to make corrupt payments to secure oil contracts between 2005 and 2010.
But after a marathon 19 days of deliberations, the jury was unable to reach a verdict in the case against Paul Bond, a British one-time Middle East sales manager for Dutch-based oil and gas services company SBM Offshore. He faces a retrial, the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) confirmed on Monday.
The three men denied any wrongdoing.
The judge lifted reporting restrictions on Monday after a drawn-out trial that was suspended in March as the coronavirus brought parts of the criminal justice system to a halt, and restarted in May in a new court to allow jurors to socially distance.
“These men dishonestly and corruptly took advantage of a government reeling from dictatorship and occupation and trying to reconstruct a war-torn state,” said SFO head Lisa Osofsky following the verdicts against Akle and Whiteley.
“They abused the system to cut out competitors and line their own pockets.”
The agency has now secured three convictions in the case after Basil Al Jarah, Unaoil’s 71-year-old former country manager for Iraq, pleaded guilty last year.
The principal suspects in the case, brothers Cyrus and Saman Ahsani, evaded British investigators and pleaded guilty to bribery in the United States after an extradition battle in Italy in 2018.
Akle, 45, Whiteley, 65, and Al Jarah will be sentenced on July 22 and 23, the SFO said.
BRIBERY
Prosecutors said the defendants had conspired with others to pay bribes to public officials at the Iraqi South Oil Company and, in Al Jarah’s case, Iraqi Ministry of Oil representatives, to secure oil contracts for Unaoil and its clients.
Al Jarah admitted to paying more than $6 million in bribes to secure contracts worth $800 million to supply oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys. Akle and Whiteley were found guilty of paying more than $500,000 in bribes to secure a $55 million contract for offshore mooring buoys.
In his defense, Akle said payments were authorized for security purposes. Whiteley denied knowing about payments but said he wanted a “level playing field” during a competitive tender.
A lawyer for Whiteley was unable to comment and legal representatives for Akle and Bond did not immediately respond to requests for comment.