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DOJ: Unaoil bosses have pleaded guilty to FCPA conspiracy

The former CEO and former chief operations officer of Monaco-based Unaoil pleaded guilty in March to arranging millions in bribes to officials in at least ten countries, and a former Unaoil business development director pleaded guilty in August last year, the DOJ said Wednesday.

Former CEO Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and former COO Saman Ahsani, 46, both UK citizens, pleaded guilty on March 25 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

They conspired “to facilitate bribes on behalf of companies in foreign countries in order to secure oil and gas contracts,” the DOJ said.

In August 2018, Unaoil’s former business development director, Steven Hunter, 50, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. He’s a UK resident.

No announcement about the three guilty pleas had been made until Wednesday.

Cyrus and Saman Ahsani are sons of Ata Ahsani, the founder of intermediary Unaoil. The family is originally from Iran.

Former CEO Cyrus Ahsani was once a U.S. resident, the DOJ said.

The defendants conspired to pay “millions of dollars in bribe payments to government officials in Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, and Syria,” the DOJ said.

The offenses occurred from 1999 to 2016 and involved “multiple companies and individuals” as co-conspirators, the DOJ said.

The bribes helped Unaoil’s clients win oil and gas-related contracts.

The DOJ said Cyrus and Saman Ahsani “laundered the proceeds of their bribery scheme in order to promote and conceal the schemes and to cause the destruction of evidence in order to obstruct investigations in the United States and elsewhere.”

Steven Hunter, the former business development director, was part of the bribe scheme involving Libyan officials, the DOJ said.

Sentencing for Cyrus and Saman Ahsani is set for April 20, 2020 in federal court in Houston. Hunter’s sentencing is scheduled for March 13.

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In June this year, a former Unaoil client, London-based TechnipFMC plc, paid the DOJ $296 million for FCPA violations in Brazil and Iraq. The firm also paid the SEC $5 million in September to resolve FCPA-related books and records and accounting controls offenses.

Another Unaoil client, Netherlands-based 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 United States to bribing officials at Brazil’s Petrobras and two state-owned energy firms in Africa.

The UK Serious Fraud Office opened an investigation into Unaoil in March 2016.

Four individuals have been charged in the UK as part of the investigation. At least one has pleaded guilty for bribery in Iraq.

Monaco-based Unaoil has always publicly denied the allegations of corruption. Its website at unaoil.com no longer contains any information.

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2 Comments

  1. Congratulations to the investigative journalism team at Fairfax Media (Melbourne Age, Sydney Morning Herald, Australian Financial Review) for their considerable contribution to this outcome.

  2. I’m curious as to how the USA FCPA covers foreign individuals working for foreign companies; unless they are contracted to USA companies? I understand how the FCPA affects foreign nationals employed by USA companies anywhere in the world; but not for foreign employees of foreign companies.


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