France

Total, Pasqua cleared of oil-for-food corruption charges

Charles Pasqua arrivess at court for a different trial in 2011
Charles Pasqua arrivess at court for a different trial in 2011 AFP/Bertrand Guay
3 min

The French oil giant Total has been cleared of corruption linked to the UN’s oil-for-food programme during Saddam Hussein’s rule of Iraq. Former interior minister Charles Pasqua and other politicians and business executives also walked free on Monday.

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Total, along with 17 other defendants, was accused of violating a UN embargo against Saddam Hussein’s regime in Iraq imposed during the first Gulf War.

Background reading: Previous French scandals

The oil-for-food programme allowed Iraq to sell some of its oil, despite the embargo, in exchange for humanitarian goods for the population.

But a US investigation alleged that over 2,000 companies involved in the programme had paid nearly 1.4 billion euros in kickbacks to win supply deals.

Of those180 were French.

Total always insisted it followed the rules.

French prosecutors had not wanted to bring the case to trial, but the investigating magistrate decided to press charges anyway.

The time the case has taken shows that the French legal system is dysfunctional, according to Total’s lawyer, Jean Veil.

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“Not a single foreign court that heard the same case against a foreign company passed a guilty verdict,” he told RFI. “All the decisions in the US or other countries were made a long time ago. And our clients have been living in agony for eight years, waiting for a decision that could only have been this one.”

All defendants, including former interior minister Charles Pasqua were completely cleared.

“We are a little bitter, because this has lasted eight years,” said Pasqua’s lawyer, Pierre Haik. “From the beginning we knew there were problems in the prosecution’s case, but the judge did not want to hear about them. Today we are happy with this decision, which exonerates everyone involved in this affair.”

Prosecutors have up to 10 days to appeal.

A second trial, implicating other companies, is due to be held in France in the coming months.

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