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The New Arab Staff

Ex-oil executive jailed over bribes to clinch $1.7bn Iraq contracts

Basil al-Jarah was sentenced to three years and four months in prison [Getty]

Date of publication: 10 October, 2020

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Former Unaoil Iraq country manager Basil al-Jarah admitted to paying $17 million in bribes to secure the lucrative contracts.
A former oil and gas executive has been sentenced by a British court to three years and four months in prison for bribing Iraq officials to secure $1.7 billion worth of oil projects in post-occupation Iraq.

Former Unaoil Iraq country manager Basil al-Jarah admitted to paying $17 million in bribes to secure the lucrative contracts to an oil platform, oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys in the Arabian Gulf.

"This was a classic case of corruption, where powerful men took advantage of the desperation and vulnerability of others to line their own pockets," Serious Fraud Office head Lisa Osofsky was quoted by Reuters as saying.

Defence lawyer John Milner expressed disappointment at the court's refusal of a suspended sentence. Milner added that the court "chose to ignore the position of the owners of Unaoil... (who were) unlikely to share Mr. Al-Jarah's fate".

The SFO investigation initially focussed on the Monaco-based oil and gas firm's former CEO, Cyrus Ahsani, and ex-chief operating officer Saman Ahsani.

As British authorities attempted to extradite the British-Iranian brothers, however, the US Department swooped in on and interrogated Saman Ahsani in Italy. 

Saman would later plead guilty to charges in Houston rather than London, leading to a rare clash between the DoJ and the SFO.

Friday's sentence is the third to be handed down by a London judge following the SFO's five-year investigation into how the Ahsanis secured energy contracts for Western blue-chip clients in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.

Former Unaoil managers Stephen Whiteley, 55, and 45-year-old Ziad Akle, have already been handed three and five year sentences after trial in London.

The Ahsani brothers currently await sentencing in the US after pleading guilty to bribery in 2019.

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