A Brisbane man has appeared in an Australian court in connection with allegations of bribing Iraqi oil officials to the tune of some US$77.6-million.
The 54-year-old was taken into custody at his home by officers from the Australian Federal Police (AFP) yesterday (Wednesday) and charged with two foreign bribery offences. He was also charged with allegedly engaging in conduct to falsify books linked to a corporation and knowingly providing misleading information.
Result of a nine-year investigation
His arrest, plus the issuing of arrest warrants for two men residing overseas, follows a nine-year investigation that covered 10 countries and close collaboration with various international law-enforcement agencies, specifically the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office, the United States Department of Justice and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
Central to the case are allegations that the suspects bribed officials at the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and the South Oil Company of Iraq in order to be awarded the two contracts – which had a combined value of approximately US$1.46-billion – for the development and installation of onshore and offshore oil pipelines designed to increase the capacity of Iraq’s crude oil export.
According to the AFP, in November 2011 it received a report from Australian-registered company Leighton Holdings Limited about alleged improper payments made by Singapore-registered operating entity Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd, regarding two contracts with Iraq Crude Oil Export in 2010 and 2011.
Tip-off from Australian company
Operation Trig commenced as a result of the information received from Leighton Holdings Limited.
AFP investigators will allege Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd funnelled bribes through entities associated with Iyer-associated companies and Unaoil to guarantee approvals for the Iraq Crude Oil Export contracts.
The investigation identified approximately US$77.6-million in suspicious payments made via third party contractors.
Strong international collaboration
AFP Deputy Commissioner for Investigations, Ian McCartney, said foreign bribery investigations required strong collaboration with international law enforcement partners to combat corruption on a global scale.
“Operation Trig investigators demonstrated outstanding resilience over the past nine years,” McCartney said.
“They persevered through the painstaking process of piecing this jigsaw together from facts and allegations of alleged corruption that reached internationally, to a level that allowed us to bring this before the court in Australia.”