Former Unaoil executive sentenced for $1.7bn Iraq bribe

Al-Jarah, Unaoil’s former Iraq country manager, admitted to paying bribes. (AFP)
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Updated 10 October 2020

Former Unaoil executive sentenced for $1.7bn Iraq bribe

  • Manager admits to paying officials to secure contracts for constructing oil projects in war-torn nation

LONDON: A former executive at Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil has been sentenced in London to three years and four months in jail for bribing Iraqi public officials to clinch $1.7 billion worth of oil projects in post-occupation Iraq.

Basil Al-Jarah, Unaoil’s former Iraq country manager, admitted to paying $17 million in bribes to secure contracts to construct oil pipelines, an oil platform and offshore mooring buoys in the Arabian Gulf, as the war-torn nation tried to shore up a battered economy after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.
It is the third sentence handed down by a London judge after a five-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) and US authorities into how the prominent Ahsani family, which ran Unaoil, secured energy contracts for Western blue-chip clients in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.Former Unaoil managers Stephen Whiteley, 55, and 45-year-old Ziad Akle, have already been sentenced to three and five years in jail respectively after a London trial.
“This was a classic case of corruption, where powerful men took advantage of the desperation and vulnerability of others to line their own pockets,” said SFO head Lisa Osofsky.
John Milner, Al-Jarah’s lawyer, said that he was disappointed the court had not agreed to a suspended sentence and “chose to ignore the position of the owners of Unaoil . . . (who were) unlikely to share Mr. Al-Jarah’s fate.”
The SFO investigation originally centered on the Ahsanis, but failed extradition attempts culminating in a clash in Italy with US prosecutors over the extradition of Saman Ahsani in 2018 thwarted the agency’s attempts to prosecute them in Britain.

HIGHLIGHTS

● Basil Al-Jarah sentenced in London after guilty plea.

● Ziad Akle, Stephen Whiteley already sentenced after trials.

● Ahsani brothers, who ran Unaoil, pleaded guilty in US.

● Fourth British defendant faces retrial in January.

British prosecutors alleged Iraqi-born Al-Jarah, 71, British-Lebanese Akle and Whiteley, who is British, conspired with others to bribe public officials at Iraq’s South Oil Company and, in Al-Jarah’s case, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil.
Akle and Whiteley denied wrongdoing. Al-Jarah pleaded guilty to five offenses in 2019 and asked for further offenses to be taken into consideration at his sentencing hearing on Thursday.
Whiteley and Akle, found guilty of conspiring to pay more than $500,000 in bribes to win a $55 million oil contract, plan to appeal against their convictions, according to their lawyers.
Paul Bond, a 68-year-old former sales manager for former Unaoil client SBM Offshore, faces a retrial in January after the jury could not reach a verdict in his case.
Brothers Cyrus and Saman Ahsani, Unaoil’s British-Iranian former CEO and chief operating officer, await sentencing in the US after pleading guilty to bribery in 2019. Their father, Ata Ahsani, has not been prosecuted.


China aims for sustained and healthy economic development

Updated 30 October 2020

China aims for sustained and healthy economic development

  • Beijing to let market forces play decisive role in resources allocation, report says

BEIJING: China is targeting sustained and healthy economic development in the five years to 2025, with an emphasis on a higher quality of growth, the Xinhua news agency said on Thursday, citing the ruling Communist Party’s Central Committee.

President Xi Jinping and members of the Central Committee, the largest of the ruling party’s elite decision-making bodies, met behind closed doors from Monday to lay out the 14th five-year plan, a blueprint for economic and social development.

China’s external environment “is getting more complicated,” the agency said, adding, “There is a significant increase in instabilities and uncertainties.”

BACKGROUND

China aims to boost its gross domestic product (GDP) per person to the level of moderately developed countries by 2035, while GDP is due to top 100 trillion yuan ($15 trillion) in 2020.

However, the country’s development was still in a period of important strategic opportunities, despite new challenges, it said.

It added that China aims to boost its gross domestic product (GDP) per person to the level of moderately developed countries by 2035, while GDP is due to top 100 trillion yuan ($15 trillion) in 2020.

China will also deepen reforms and let market forces play a decisive role in resources allocation, the agency said.

China will promote a “dual circulation” model, make self-sufficiency in technology a strategic pillar for development, move to develop and urbanize regions, and combine efforts to expand domestic demand with supply-side reforms, it added.

The “dual circulation” strategy, first proposed by Xi in May, envisages that China’s next phase of development will depend mainly on “domestic circulation” or an internal cycle of production, distribution and consumption, backed by domestic technological innovation.