Unaoil bribery case: Executives involved fall like dominoes, Whiteley sentenced for three years


On Thursday, a former senior executive of Monaco-based oil consultancy, Unaoil, was convicted in a multi-million-dollar bribery case and sentenced for three years. Stephen Whiteley, a 65-years old Briton was jailed after the UK jury found him guilty of paying bribes of over $500,000 (Dh1.8 million) in order to gain a $55 million contract to build offshore moorings in Iraq, in the Arabian Gulf for tankers to load oil.

These oil infrastructure contracts benefitted not only Unaoil but also some its clients including Dutch oil company SBM Offshore, where Whiteley worked as Vice President before he joined Unaoil. Unaoil acted as the middle-man for well-known companies trying toobtain work in post war-ravaged Iraq, reduced to rubble by the US and UK forces.

The verdict against Whiteley, the former Unaoil territory manager for Iraq, came after four long years of in-depth investigation conducted by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO). With respect to his arrest, Lisa Osofsky, the head of the Serious Fraud Office, said, “The flagrant greed and callous criminality exhibited by these men undermines the reputation and integrity of British business on the international stage. We will not cease in our mission to bring such people to justice.”

Whiteley’s lawyer, Sam Healey, a partner at JMW Solicitors LLP, said that he would contest the verdict. “This case has cast a shadow over Stephen’s life for almost four years,” Mr. Healey said in a statement, adding that Mr. Whiteley had cooperated throughout the investigation. “It has been an extremely difficult time for both Stephen and his family and he is understandably very distressed by the outcome.”

Besides, Whiteley, two other ex-executives of Unaoil, Ziad Akle and Basil Al Jarah have also been declared guilty under the bribery and laundering case. Aklewas convicted for five years last week, while Al Jarah would be sentenced in October. Akle said that he too would appeal against sentence.

All the senior executives of Unaoil who were involved in the high-profile bribery and financial conspiracy scheme started falling like dominoes after the arrest of two of the Unaoil chiefs last year. British brothers Cyrus and Saman Ahsani, Unaoil’s former chief executive and chief operating officer respectively, pleaded guilty of violating the US Foreign Corrupt Practices Act on behalf of the companies to secure oil and gas contracts. The US justice department has yet to to pronounce their sentence.



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