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Former Unaoil executive sentenced for paying bribes to win $1.7bn worth of contracts

8 October, 2020 | News Releases

Basil Al Jarah has today been sentenced to three years and four months’ imprisonment for paying in excess of $17m in bribes to dishonestly secure approximately $1.7bn worth of contracts in post-occupation Iraq.

Al Jarah, Unaoil’s former Iraq partner, conspired with others to pay millions of dollars in bribes to public officials at the South Oil Company and Iraqi Ministry of Oil. These bribes secured contracts for Unaoil and its clients to construct oil pipelines, offshore mooring buoys in the Persian Gulf, and other infrastructure projects, collectively worth just over $1.7bn. These contracts formed part of the Iraqi Ministry of Oil’s ‘Master Plan’ to rebuild its oil export capacity and revitalise the Iraqi economy after years of war and occupation.

Director of the Serious Fraud Office Lisa Osofsky said:

“Al Jarah and his co-conspirators’ machinations, driven by greed and heartless avarice, compromised the fairness of the bidding process and ultimately drove up the price a war-torn country had to pay for essential infrastructural upgrades, earning Unaoil and its clients vast profits in the process.

“This was a classic case of corruption, where powerful men took advantage of the desperation and vulnerability of others to line their own pockets.  I’m proud that the SFO could bring these men to justice.”

Al Jarah pleaded guilty to five offences of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in July 2019 in relation to two projects; one to install three mooring buoys and one to construct two oil pipelines. Co-conspirators on the mooring buoys bribery, Stephen Whiteley and Ziad Akle, were found guilty of one and two counts, respectively, of conspiracy to give corrupt payments in July 2020. Akle was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and Whiteley to three years’ imprisonment by HHJ Beddoe in July 2020. A further individual, Paul Bond, faces retrial in January 2021.

At his sentencing hearing on 8 October 2020 Al Jarah asked for further offences to be taken into consideration in relation to two other projects: one to install an oil platform and one to install a third oil pipeline.

Notes to editors:

  1. Basil Al Jarah (01/06/49), who was Unaoil’s Iraq partner, 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 on 15 July 2019. See the press release here.
  2. Stephen Whiteley (04/07/1955), former Vice President at SBM Offshore and Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq, was found guilty in July 2020 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. He was sentenced to 3 years’ imprisonment on 30 July 2020. See the press release here.
  3. Ziad Akle (02/03/1975), who was Unaoil’s territory manager for Iraq, was found guilty in July 2020 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. He was sentenced to five years’ imprisonment on each count, to be served concurrently, on 23 July 2020. See the press release here.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Counsel for the prosecution: Michael Brompton QC, Gillian Jones QC, Faras Baloch and Thomas Daniel
  7. Counsel for Al Jarah: Alexander Cameron QC and Patrick Hill
  8. The judge is HHJ Beddoe.
  9. More information can be found here.
  10. This case remains active and the Strict Liability Rule in the Contempt of Court Act 1981 applies.