Total, CEO acquitted in Iraq oil-for-food scandal
Paris, July 8, 2013
French oil giant Total and its chief executive were acquitted on Monday in the UN oil-for-food scandal under Saddam Hussein's rule in Iraq.
The Paris criminal court also cleared 17 other defendants and Swiss oil trader Vitol in the far-reaching corruption probe.
Designed to ease the suffering of the Iraqi people, the oil-for-food programme allowed Iraq to sell some of its oil, despite the embargo imposed after the first Gulf War, in exchange for humanitarian goods.
The programme became mired in controversy after an independent inquiry led by the former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker disclosed in 2005 a system of kickbacks and payments to prominent individuals with access to Iraqi oil.
Total, Europe's third-largest oil group by market capitalisation, was accused of bribery, complicity and influence peddling during the 1996-2003 programme - which handed the Iraqi government an illicit $1.8 billion from the fraudulent system.
Prosecutors had argued that the defendants, which included Total's CEO Christophe de Margerie and ex-French interior minister Charles Pasqua, had knowingly participated in the illegal system that violated UN regulations.
Total had faced a fine of up to 1.88 million euros ($2.4 million) while de Margerie, 61, had risked five years in prison and a fine of 375,000 euros. Prosecutors have 10 days to appeal against the verdict.
Total shares rose slightly after the ruling to 37.9 euros, up 2.1 percent on the day. - Reuters