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France investigates oil giant Total for ‘corruption’ in Iranian contracts

The late CEO Christophe de Margerie, seen here at the Elysée palace, denied that Total had paid bribes in the case before his death last month
The late CEO Christophe de Margerie, seen here at the Elysée palace, denied that Total had paid bribes in the case before his death last month Reuters/Gonzalo Fuentes

French oil giant Total is under criminal investigation for alleged corruption of foreign officials in contracts with Iranian companies in the late 1990s and early 2000s, it was revealed on Tuesday.

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A Paris court has been investigating since 2006 whether bribes were given to ensure the French company won exploration rights on gas and oil fields in Iran at a time when the US had slapped sanctions on the Islamic republic.

The company denies paying bribes and has said it would fight the charges if the case goes to trial.

Total’s late CEO, Christophe de Margerie, was under investigation in connection with the case when he died in a plane crash in Moscow on 20 October.

De Margerie was the company's Middle East regional director at the time of the contracts but the case against him has been dropped due to his death.

American authorities accuse the French company of paying 30 million dollars (24 million euros at today’s value) in bribes to Iranian officials in order to win development rights in two oil fields and a gas field.

Total was working in partnership with Russia’s Gazprom and Malaysia’s Petronas on the gas field contract.

Total agreed last year to pay the equivalent of 307 million euros to settle procedures in the United States related to the same contracts.

Its lawyer, Daniel Soulez-Larivière, argues that the company cannot be prosecuted again for the same alleged offence and that the case dates back to before 2000 when France signed up to the OECD agreement on corruption of foreign officials.

Two Iranians who served as go-betweens, businessman and lobbyist Bijan Dadfar and consultant Abbas Yazdi are also cited in the case.
 

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