France - Iraq

Total to be tried for oil-for-food corruption in Saddam's Iraq

Reuters/Philippe Wojazer

French oil giant Total is to be charged with corruption, along with its CEO, a high-profile former minister and 17 other people for allegedly paying bribes to obtain extra Iraqi petrol while the UN’s oil-for-food programme was in operation

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Total CEO Christophe de Margerie is to be charged with complicity in the graft, while former interior minister Charles Pasqua, accused of influence peddling, is among a number of French right-wing politicians on the charge sheet.

Under French law Total, which is the world’s third-largest oil company, can be declared a legal entity and prosecuted.

The company denies the charges.

A previous attempt to bring the case to trial have failed on procedural grounds but a trial is now certain to take place in Paris in 2012.

A UN-ordered inquiry found that Total paid millions of euros-worth of “surcharges” in order to obtain extra deliveries of Iraqi oil, while its 1996-2003 oil-for-food programme was in operation.

The programme allowed the country, then ruled by Saddam Hussein, to sell limited amounts of its oil in exchange for vital supplies to relieve the effects of a UN embargo imposed after the first Gulf War in 1991.

Individuals involved are said to have received “coupons” which they sold to oil companies, with France’s 1991-1995 UN representative, Jean-Bernard Mérimée, reportedly confessing to have converted a house in Morocco with the proceeds.

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