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Former Unaoil executive sentenced to five years for bribery in post-occupation Iraq

23 July, 2020 | News Releases

Ziad Akle has been sentenced to five years’ imprisonment for paying over $500,000 in bribes to secure a $55m contract to supply offshore mooring buoys.

The new buoys formed part of the post-occupation Iraqi government’s “Master Plan” to rebuild Iraq’s oil industry and thereby expand the country’s oil export capacity. To ensure Unaoil benefitted from these state-run projects, Akle, conspiring with Stephen Whiteley and others, bribed public officials at the South Oil Company to secure contracts for Unaoil and its clients.

In his sentencing, HHJ Beddoe said:

“The offences were committed across borders at a time of serious need for the government of Iraq to rebuild after years of sanctions and the devastation of war. They were utterly exploitative at a time when the economic and political situation in Iraq was extremely fragile.”

A jury at Southwark Crown Court found Akle guilty on two counts of conspiracy to give corrupt payments. Another individual, Stephen Whiteley, was found guilty of one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in relation to the same crime. He will be sentenced on a date to be determined.

SFO Director Lisa Osofsky said:

“Ziad Akle and his co-conspirators exploited a country reeling from years of dictatorship and military occupation to line his own pockets and win business. It is this combination of greed and heartless avarice that led to these convictions.

“Today’s sentencing sends a clear message that the United Kingdom and the SFO will not tolerate criminal activity that undermines the fairness and integrity of international business.”

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.

Unaoil explainer graphic

Unaoil explainer graphic

Notes to Editors

  • Ziad Akle (02/03/1975), who was Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq, has been convicted of two offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and contrary to section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.
  • Ziad Akle was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently.
  • Stephen Whiteley (04/07/1955), former Vice President at SBM Offshore and Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq has been convicted of one offence of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and contrary to section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.
  • Basil Al Jarah (01/06/49), who was Unaoil’s Iraq partner, has pleaded guilty to five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments, contrary to section (1) of the Criminal Law Act 1977 and contrary to section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906. He will be sentenced on 8 October 2020.
  • The SFO opened its investigation on 22 March 2016 and the trial began on 20 January 2020 at Southwark Crown Court. The trial was adjourned on 17 March due to the coronavirus pandemic, but resumed at the Old Bailey before the jury on 13 May following social distancing guidelines. The SFO announced the verdicts of the jury on 13 July 2020. You can read the press release here.
  • The jury was unable to reach a verdict on a third defendant in the trial, Paul Bond. He will be retried at Southwark Crown Court on 18 January 2021.
  • Counsel for the prosecution: Michael Brompton QC, Gillian Jones QC, Faras Baloch and Thomas Daniel
  • Counsel for Akle: Jim Sturman QC, Mark Aldred and Duncan Jones
  • The judge is HHJ Beddoe.
  • More information can be found here.