Former Unaoil executive sentenced for $1.7bn Iraq bribe

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

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.


PIF’s real estate developer breaks ground on flagship Riyadh project

Updated 55 min 26 sec ago

PIF’s real estate developer breaks ground on flagship Riyadh project

PIF’s real estate developer breaks ground on flagship Riyadh project
  • Subsidiary hails strategic launch as part of Kingdom’s 10-year drive to increase home ownership rate to 70%

RIYADH: ROSHN, the real estate subsidiary of sovereign wealth fund the Public Investment Fund (PIF) has broken ground on its flagship residential project in the Saudi capital.

The developer’s first community project in the Saudi capital will cover an area of more than 20 million square meters. The project will consist of 30,000 housing units when complete, with 4,000 in the first phase.

The first district is strategically located in the north of the city, near Princess Noura University and south of King Khalid International Airport. The site connects residents to the main roads and transportation network, in addition to parks, pedestrian paths, bicycle paths, restaurants, cafes, schools and mosques.

David Grover, group CEO at ROSHN, said: “The announcement of the Riyadh community represents the initial step in the realization of our vision to become the most trusted community developer in Saudi Arabia. We are deeply committed to contributing to Vision 2030’s plans to increase the rate of home ownership in the country to 70 percent, while delivering high-quality homes and excellent amenities to the Saudi people.”

Launched in August this year, ROSHN has put in place a 10-year plan to develop neighborhoods across the Kingdom in eight phases.

“We are proud to launch ROSHN, a national company specialized in developing modern residential compounds, as part of PIF strategy to develop (Saudi Arabia’s) real estate market,” PIF said in a tweet.

Last month, ROSHN announced the signing of SR1.6 billion ($426 million) in new construction contracts.

According to a press statement last week, sales of off-plan homes at the new site will start in the first half of 2021.