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

30 July, 2020 | Case Updates

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.

Notes to editors:

  1. 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.
  2. Stephen Whiteley was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment.
  3. 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.
  4. On 23 July 2020, Ziad Akle was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently. See the press release here.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Counsel for the prosecution: Michael Brompton QC, Gillian Jones QC, Faras Baloch and Thomas Daniel
  9. Counsel for Whiteley: Adrian Eissa QC and Samantha Riggs
  10. Counsel for Akle: Jim Sturman QC, Mark Aldred and Duncan Jones
  11. The judge is HHJ Beddoe.
  12. More information can be found here.