The UK Serious Fraud Office said Tuesday it brought criminal charges against the Monaco-based intermediary that allegedly paid bribes in Iraq to help two companies win energy-related contracts.
The SFO “commenced criminal proceedings against Unaoil Monaco SAM and Unaoil Ltd as part of an ongoing corruption prosecution,” the agency said in a statement.
Unaoil Ltd allegedly paid bribes to help Leighton Contractors Singapore Pte Ltd win a contract worth $733 million for two pipelines in southern Iraq.
The SFO also charged Unaoil Monaco SAM with paying bribes “to secure the award of contracts in Iraq to Unaoil’s client SBM Offshore.”
The charges against both Unaoil units were brought under the Criminal Law Act 1977 and the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906.
Leighton Singapore is a subsidiary of Leighton Holdings Ltd.
Leighton Holdings, based in Australia, changed its name in 2015 to CIMIC Group Limited (ASX:CIM).
A report in 2014 said internal emails leaked from Leighton Holdings warned that a $24 million “facilitation payment” linked to a 2010 Iraq contract would “attract attention” from auditors.
Other emails talked 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.
The SFO has already charged four individuals connected to the alleged Unaoil bribes. Their cases are pending.
Netherlands-based SBM provides floating production systems for the oil and gas industry.
In the United States, SBM Offshore paid a criminal penalty of $238 million in late 2017 to resolve FCPA offenses in Brazil, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, and Iraq.
Two former SBM executives pleaded guilty in the U.S. to bribing officials at Brazil’s Petrobras and two state-owned energy firms in Africa.
A report in March 2016 by Fairfax Media and the Huffington Post said Unaoil paid bribes on behalf of several large companies in the oil and gas sector.
Unaoil has denied the allegations.
High-profile white collar defense lawyer Jo Rickards of Mishcon de Reya is representing the Unaoil companies. Her bio says she’s “been involved in all the major SFO investigations since the Office was created.”
The first hearing for the companies is set for July 18 at Westminster Magistrates’ Court in London.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.