Unaoil

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Unaoil
Private
Industry Oil industry
Founded 1991
Headquarters La Rousse, Monaco
Key people
Ahsani family
Website www.unaoil.com

Unaoil is a Monaco based company run by the Ahsani family founded in 1991.[1] According to Unaoil, it provides "industrial solutions to the energy sector in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa."[2][1] Unaoil is incorporated in the British Virgin Islands, a tax haven with an opaque banking system.[3]

Allegations of bribery[edit]

In 2010 Unaoil entered into an agreement with Leighton Holdings with the aim of securing a $500 million oil pipeline contract in Iraq. In 2011 Leighton Holdings referred the deal to the police as corruption.[3] In 2014 a UK High Court judge queried the corruption claims after Unaoil denied them in a civil litigation matter involving Leighton Holidngs.[4] In 2016, the UK Serious Fraud Office alleged before the UK High Court in a separate case brought by Unaoil that the firm was engaged in "extensive" corruption.[5] Unaoil's litigation, in which it alleged the SFO had acted unlwafully, was dismissed by the High Court.[6]

In March 2016, the SFO began investigating allegations Unaoil acting corruptly in facilitating business deals involving Rolls Royce, Halliburton-KBR, Petrofac, ABB, Leighton Holdings and Amec Foster Wheeler.[7]

In the United States, KBR, FMC Technologies and Core Labs all disclosed in 2016 that they had been contacted by the Justice Department in connection with a DOJ probe of Unaoil.[8]

The SFO and DOJ inquiries followed media reports that Unaoil allegedly facilitated extensive corruption and bribery in the oil industry.[9] A leaked cache of Unaoil internal company emails dating from 2001 to 2012 were the subject of a series of articles published by Fairfax Media investigative reporters Nick McKenzie, Richard Baker and Michael Bachelard in the Australian newspaper The Age, and The Huffington Post in March 2016. Under headlines such as "Unaoil: World's Biggest Bribe Scandal"[9] and "Unaoil: Company that Bribed the World",[9] The Age wrote that "How they make their money is simple. Oil-rich countries often suffer poor governance and high levels of corruption. Unaoil's business plan is to play on the fears of large Western companies that they cannot win contracts without its help. Its operatives then bribe officials in oil-producing nations to help these clients win government-funded projects. The corrupt officials might rig a tender committee. Or leak inside information. Or ensure a contract is awarded without a competitive tender".[9]

In Iraq, Unaoil was alleged to have paid "multi-million dollar lump sums" to senior politicians. Other oil producing countries that Unaoil have operated in include Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Kuwait, and the UAE.[9]

In March 2016 The Sydney Morning Herald published a letter from a legal representative of Unaoil in which the allegations of corruption and bribery are denied.[10]

On 31 March 2016, Monaco authorities announced that they had raided the offices of Unaoil and the homes of some of its executives, following an urgent request for assistance from the UK's Serious Fraud Office. The statement said, "These searches and interviews were carried out in the presence of British officials as part of a vast, international corruption scandal implicating numerous foreign oil industry firms. The information collected is going to be examined by the British authorities as part of their investigation".[11] As of the same day Unaoil found itself under a joint investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice, FBI, the U.K. National Crime Agency and Australian Federal Police.[12]

On 27 February 2017, an article in the News Corp-owned The Australian presented an alternative perspective on the Unaoil bribery scandal.[13] This claimed that the Fairfax Media newspapers had settled claims made against them regarding false allegations and indicated that "within weeks, the publisher will be confronted with yet another legal action, this time from the company at the centre of the allegations that triggered these backdowns. That company is Unaoil, a Monaco-based business that is a player in the international oil industry and is owned by the Ashani family." The article claimed that the leaker of the company emails was an extortionist who had hacked Unaoil, and stated that Unaoil would seek through court to identify the sources for the 2016 articles. The Australian had previously reported Unaoil's denials of the allegations, and accusation that it was the victim of extortion, on 17 May 2016.[14] Neither of these articles suggested that the content of the leaked emails upon which the earlier allegations had been based was inaccurate or forged.

In November 2016, the UK Treasury announced it was giving the SFO 'blockbuster funding' to resource the agency's Unaoil probe. That same month, a former Unaoil country manager told the BBC's Panorama programme he had bribed a Libyan government official. The whistleblower, Lindsay Mitchell, said that in 2009 he handed an envelope filled with US dollars to a manager at a subsidiary of the state-owned Libyan National Oil Company.[15]

In January 2017, the DOJ announced in a statement that Rolls Royce had agreed to pay a $170 million fine to settle corruption allegations involving its use of several facilitators to win contracts, including Unaoil.[16]

Ongoing investigations by the UK's Serious Fraud Office were reported in April 2017.[17] In May 2017, listed UK company Petrofac suspended a top executive in connection to the Unaoil investigation.[18]

Corruption charges laid by Serious Fraud Office[edit]

On November 17 2017, the Serious Fraud Office charged two former Unaoil Iraq managers with conspiring to pay bribes to win Dutch company SBM Offshore contracts in Iraq.[19] The Iraq officials allegedly bribed were not named. The SFO also issued extradition proceedings against Unaoil Chief Operations Officer Saman Ahsani.[20]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "Heritage". Unaoil.com. Retrieved 2016-03-30. 
  2. ^ ""CHAIRMAN'S MESSAGE"". Unaoil.com. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  3. ^ a b McKenzie, Nick; Baker, Richard (2013-11-18). "Leighton Holdings linked to 'corrupt' fees for Iraq pipeline contracts". The Australian. Retrieved 2016-04-02. (subscription required)
  4. ^ Kitney, Damon (2015-03-10). "Leighton corruption evidence 'at best tenuous', UK judge says". The Australian. Retrieved 2016-04-01. (subscription required)
  5. ^ Evans, Rob; Pegg, David (2016-12-01). "Monaco oil firm starts legal action against Serious Fraud Office". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-12. 
  6. ^ Editorial, Reuters. "UK court dismisses Unaoil case against anti-fraud agency". Reuters UK. Retrieved 2017-07-12. 
  7. ^ Thomas, Natalie. "Amec Foster Wheeler Shares drop 10 per cent on SFO probe". Financial Times. Retrieved 2017-07-12. 
  8. ^ "Swiss Engineering Co. Admits Improper Unaoil Payments - Law360". www.law360.com. Retrieved 2017-07-12. 
  9. ^ a b c d e McKenzie, Nick; Baker, Richard; Bachelard, Michael; Quinlan, Daniel (2016-03-30). "The Bribe Factory: Part 1". The Age. Retrieved 2016-03-30. 
  10. ^ Bachelard, Michael (2016-03-31). "How bribe factory Unaoil tried to stop us telling their secrets". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2016-03-31. 
  11. ^ Rawlinson, Kevin (2016-04-01). "Authorities in Monaco raid oil firm HQ in corruption investigation". The Guardian. Retrieved 2016-04-02. 
  12. ^ McKenzie, Nick; Baker, Richard; Bachelard, Michael; Quinlan, Daniel (2016-03-31). "FBI And Justice Department Probing Huge International Bribery Scandal". Huffington Post. Retrieved 2016-04-03. 
  13. ^ Merritt, Chris (2017-02-27). "Fairfax's pain just beginning as Unaoil stories keep taking". The Australian. Retrieved 2017-03-18. (subscription required)
  14. ^ "Unaoil denies media claims of corruption". The Australian. 2016-05-17. Retrieved 2017-03-18. (subscription required)
  15. ^ Pegg, David; Evans, Rob; Watt, Holly (2016-11-01). "Serious Fraud Office given extra funds to investigate Unaoil bribery claims". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-07-12. 
  16. ^ "Rolls-Royce plc Agrees to Pay $170 Million Criminal Penalty to Resolve Foreign Corrupt Practices Act Case". www.justice.gov. Retrieved 2017-07-12. 
  17. ^ Jane Croft, (28 April 2017), UK fraud office opens probe into KBR unit, Financial Times. Retrieved 21 May 2017
  18. ^ "Petrofac suspends top executive amid SFO corruption investigation". The Telegraph. Retrieved 2017-07-12. 
  19. ^ Watt, Holly; Evans, Rob; Pegg, David (2017-11-16). "Serious Fraud Office charges two Unaoil executives with bribery". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 
  20. ^ Watt, Holly; Evans, Rob; Pegg, David (2017-11-16). "Serious Fraud Office charges two Unaoil executives with bribery". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2017-11-17. 

External links[edit]