Humberside

Two men convicted over £4.9m Iraqi oil bribery plot

Lady Justice at Old Bailey
Image caption The two men were convicted on corruption charges following a trial at the Old Bailey

Two businessmen have been convicted of a £4.9m bribery plot to win oil deals in Iraq.

Ziad Akle, 45, and Stephen Whiteley, 65, aimed to secure contracts worth £650m following the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

The pair were found guilty of conspiracy to make corrupt payments in a trial at the Central Criminal Court in London.

Both men will be sentenced at Southwark Crown Court next week.

The trial had heard that the infrastructure needed to produce and distribute crude oil in Iraq had become old and dilapidated during the Hussein regime.

As part of reconstruction efforts, the Iraqi Ministry of Oil planned to increase production by acquiring mooring buoys in the Persian Gulf to allow tankers to load oil offshore.

The ministry also sought two new pipelines to take the oil by land and sea from storage tanks near the oil fields and processing facilities to the buoys.

Basra-based South Oil Company, a state-owned firm, was put in charge of the project for the ministry.

One of the businesses hoping to cash in through commission was Monaco-based Unaoil, the court was told.

Unaoil allied itself with Dutch-based company SBM Offshore, which won the contract for the supply of the buoys.

In each case, it was alleged that Unaoil paid bribes to the South Oil Company's project manager.

The offences date between 2005 and 2010.

Akle, from Marylebone, London, who is a British-Lebanese national, was Unaoil's territory manager for Iraq, and Whiteley, from Beverley, Yorkshire, was SBM vice president until May 2009 when he joined Unaoil.

A third man, Basil Al-Jarah, 71, from Hull, was Unaoil's country manager for Iraq and partner in a subsidiary company. He pleaded guilty to the bribery conspiracy at an earlier trial and is awaiting sentence.

The jury at the Old Bailey was unable to reach verdicts on similar charges brought against Paul Bond, 68. He now faces a retrial.

Bond, who lives in the south of France, had been SBM's sales manager for the Middle East and was closely involved in the arrangements for the sale of the three buoys, it was claimed.

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