Briton jailed over plot to pay allurements for Iraq oil contract

A British business owner has been imprisoned for three and a half years after being founded guilty of conspiring to pay huge backhanders in among the world’s greatest bribery scandals.

The jailing of Paul Bond on Monday is the 4th effective prosecution by the Serious Fraud Workplace following the exposure of the organized use of multimillion-dollar kickbacks to protect financially rewarding agreements around the world for blue chip companies.

Investigations by the SFO and its equivalents in the US and other countries uncovered extensive corruption arranged by Unaoil, a firm that supposed to be an oil and gas consultancy.

Two of the ringleaders who owned and controlled the now-collapsed Unaoil have admitted their roles in paying off officials in 9 countries over a duration of 17 years and are waiting for sentencing in the United States.

The convictions of the four business owners in the UK courts will be viewed as a much-needed plume in the cap of Lisa Osofsky, the SFO’s director. The examination was one of the company’s biggest and was backed with special funding from the Treasury.

Nevertheless, the examination has been spoiled by allegations of misconduct and the unjustified sacking of a senior district attorney who led the investigation.

Osofsky and other senior authorities are dealing with an independent inquiry over their uncommon contacts with a private detective who was looking for to secure more favourable sentences for his customers.

Last month a work tribunal ruled that the company had unjustly sacked among its senior prosecutors, Tom Martin, after the United States Department of Justice (DoJ) submitted problems versus him to undermine his position at the agency.

Secret documents seen by the Guardian exposed how DoJ officials deceived the UK prosecutors when they were expected to be working together, causing the SFO to complain that “we look like fools”.

Monday’s sentencing of Bond appears to bring to an end the SFO’s Unaoil-related prosecutions, which focused on the bribery of public authorities to land oil agreements in Iraq.

Bond, 68, a former sales supervisor at the Dutch energy international SBM, was condemned of 2 counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments by a jury at Southwark Crown Court after a retrial.

A Briton who lives in France, Bond had taken part in a plot to pay more than $900,000 in bribes to Iraqi public officials to win a $55m agreement for SBM.

Examinations by the SFO and prosecutors in other countries, including the United States, were started in 2016 after Unaoil was exposed by investigative reporters as a worldwide cleaning house for bribery by significant multinationals.

Unaoil was hired by companies consisting of Rolls-Royce to help them land big agreements worldwide. It paid bribes worth more than $17m to foreign authorities to win agreements totalling $1.7 bn on behalf of the multinationals.

Unaoil was run by the Ahsani family, including Ata Ahsani and his two kids, Cyrus and Saman. The two British-Iranian bros pleaded guilty in an US court to charges of helping with bribery in 2019, and are to be sentenced at a hearing that will be kept in May at the earliest.

The two bros confessed helping to set up allurements in Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria in between 1999 and 2016.

The SFO in some cases has a hard time to protect convictions owing to the intricate nature of its work and the high threshold for showing criminal obligation in severe fraud and corruption cases. However, it struck some success with the Unaoil case.

Unaoil’s supervisor for Iraq, Basil Al Jarah, was imprisoned in the UK last October for three years and 4 months after pleading guilty to paying $17m of kickbacks to dishonestly protect $1.7 bn of Iraqi federal government contracts.

The SFO likewise secured the convictions of 2 other Unaoil supervisors, Ziad Akle and Stephen Whiteley, who were jailed last July for five years and 3 years respectively after being founded guilty of conspiracy to make corrupt payments to Iraqi officials.

Akle is appealing versus his conviction. He is anticipated to rely on a criticism made by a judge at his trial of the SFO’s conduct during the examination. The judge Martin Beddoe rebuked Osofsky over “lovely” text messages she received from a United States private investigator working for the Ahsanis. Beddoe stated Osofsky and other senior SFO figures should not have had any contact with the private investigator, David Tinsley, who had no recognised legal function in the case.

In a judgment revealed last July, he criticised Osofsky for tacitly encouraging Tinsley, who had actually pressed suspects to confess their participation in the worldwide bribery scheme. Beddoe advised that the SFO established an independent inquiry into its contacts with Tinsley. Whiteley is also appealing.

Osofsky said on Monday: “Bond and his co-conspirators manipulated the tendering process for a facilities job essential to Iraq’s establishing economy, with no regard for the effect.”

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