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Harry Cassin
Publisher and Editor

Andy Spalding
Senior Editor

Jessica Tillipman
Senior Editor

Richard L. Cassin
Editor at Large

Elizabeth K. Spahn
Editor Emeritus

Cody Worthington
Contributing Editor

Julie DiMauro
Contributing Editor

Thomas Fox
Contributing Editor

Marc Alain Bohn
Contributing Editor

Bill Waite
Contributing Editor

Shruti J. Shah
Contributing Editor

Russell A. Stamets
Contributing Editor

Richard Bistrong
Contributing Editor

Eric Carlson
Contributing Editor

Bill Steinman
Contributing Editor

SFO brings new charges in Unaoil investigation

A former vice president of SBM Offshore already charged with hiring Unaoil to pay bribes on behalf of SBM was hit with a new charge Thursday of helping another contractor hire Unaoil to pay bribes in Iraq.

Stephen Whiteley was charged Thursday in London with conspiracy to make corrupt payments.

The SFO said Whiteley, 63, was a vice president of Netherlands-based SBM Offshore and also worked for Unaoil as its General Territories Manager for Iraq, Kazakhstan, and Angola.

He lives in Aberdeen, Scotland.

The SFO said in 2009 and 2010 Whiteley “assisted Unaoil Limited to be engaged as a subcontractor to Leighton Contractors Singapore PTE Ltd for an oil pipeline project in Iraq.” 

Leaked internal emails from Leighton’s parent company — Leighton Holdings — warned that a $24 million “facilitation payment” linked to a 2010 Iraq contract would “attract attention” from auditors.

Other emails talk about plans by senior employees to make payments to “friends” in the ­Middle East and to inflate and backdate contracts to win work in Iraq.

In May this year, the SFO charged a Unaoil employee and one of the firm’s “partners” in Iraq with making corrupt payments to help Leighton Contractors win two pipeline contracts worth more than $700 milllion.

Leighton Contractors Singapore is a subsidiary of Leighton Holdings Ltd.

Leighton Holdings, based in Australia, changed its name in 2015 to CIMIC Group Limited (ASX:CIM).

Whiteley was already facing charges in London for allegedly helping SBM Offshore win work in Iraq by hiring Unaoil to pay bribes there.

In November 2017, the SFO charged him and another SBM executive, Paul Bond, with conspiracy to make corrupt payments.

Bond, 65, lives in France.

Sam Healey of JMW Solicitors, representing Stephen Whiteley, said: “Mr. Whiteley strenuously denies all alleged offenses. He co-operated fully with the SFO as they opened their enquiries, and will rigorously defend the charges.”

In the United States, SBM Offshore agreed in November 2017 to pay a criminal penalty of $238 million to resolve FCPA offenses in Brazil, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, and Iraq.

In October this year, two former SBM executives were jailed in the United States for bribing officials at three state-owned oil and gas companies — Brazil’s Petrobras, Angola’s Sonangol, and Equatorial Guinea’s GEPetrol.

Former CEO Anthony “Tony” Mace, 66, a UK citizen, was sentenced to 36 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $150,000.

Robert Zubiate, also 66, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay fine of $50,000. He was a sales and marketing executive at SBM USA.

The SFO charged two Unaoil units in June this year for allegedly bribing officials in Iraq to help SBM and Leighton Contractors win work.

The SFO investigation started after a report in March 2016 by Fairfax Media and the Huffington Post said Unaoil paid bribes on behalf of large companies in the oil and gas sector.

Monaco-based Unaoil has denied the allegations.

In London, Whiteley is scheduled to appear in the Westminster Magistrates’ Court on January 9.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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