France’s Total acquitted in Iraqi ‘oil for food’ case

France's Total acquitted in Iraqi 'oil for food' case
French oil giant Total. Photo: Iain Farrell
French energy giant Total was acquitted by a court in Paris on Monday on charges of corruption and influence peddling relating to the United Nation's 'oil-for-food' programme in Iraq during the 1990s.

A French court on Monday acquitted energy giant Total, its chief executive, a former minister, and more than a dozen other defendants who had faced corruption charges in connection with Iraq's oil-for-food programme.

The court ruled there had been no corruption or influence-peddling linked with the $64 billion UN programme that allowed Iraq, then under crippling international sanctions, to sell limited quantities of oil to buy humanitarian supplies between 1996 and 2003.

The company, along with Total CEO Christophe de Margerie, former interior minister Charles Pasqua, and more than a dozen former managers and retired diplomats, had faced graft charges.

Total and the other defendants rejected the accusations, with the company saying it acted in strict accordance with the rules of the UN programme, which was suspended following the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

Prosecutors had called for Total to pay the maximum fine of €750,000 ($963,000).

During the trial, which took place in January and February, Total was accused of using intermediaries between 2000 and 2002 to pay surcharges for oil that ended up in the hands of Iraqi officials.

French prosecutors had opposed bringing the case to trial, but the investigating judge had decided to press charges anyway. In France, an investigating magistrate conducts a probe and can overrule prosecutors, who must still argue a case in court.

A UN inquiry led by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker alleged in 2005 that the 2,200 companies involved in the programme had paid a total of $1.8 billion in kickbacks to win supply deals. Of those, 180 were French.

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