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Aberdeen oil executive sentenced to three years for bribery following four-year investigation

Southwark Crown Court
Southwark Crown Court

An Aberdeen oil chief convicted of paying £400,000 in bribes to win contacts in war-torn Iraq has been sentenced to three years in prison.

Stephen Whiteley, who was vice-president of SBM Offshore and Unaoil’s territory manager in Iraq, conspired with associate Ziad Akle and others to pay bribes to public officials at the South Oil Company to secure contracts to construct offshore mooring buoys in the Persian Gulf.

The 64-year-old was handed his sentence at Southwark Crown Court today following a four-year investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

A jury found Whiteley guilty of one count of conspiracy to give corrupt payments to secure £43 milion in contracts in mid-July, while Akle was found guilty of two charges and sentenced to five years on July 23.

Co-conspirator Basil Al Jarah previously admitted his part in the scam last July – accepting he had paid bribes worth more than £4.7m to secure contracts worth over £630m for the supply of oil pipelines and offshore mooring buoys.

The former Unaoil boss was due to be sentenced last week, however he reportedly took ill and collapsed at home.

Following the toppling of Saddam Hussein as leader of Iraq in 2003, the three men conspired with others to bribe public officials at the Iraqi South Oil Company to secure oil contracts for Monaco-headquartered Unaoil and its clients.

Al Jarah also targeted the Iraqi Ministry of Oil.

The post-occupation Iraqi government commissioned South Oil Company to run projects to rebuild the oil industry and expand its export capacity, including the installation of offshore mooring buoys and new oil pipelines.

The Old Bailey heard that to ensure Unaoil benefited, Whiteley, Akle and Al Jarah bribed officials to secure the contracts.

SFO director Lisa Osofsky said: “Faced with a country in desperate need of reconstruction following years of military occupation, Stephen Whiteley, Ziad Akle and their co-conspirators saw an opportunity to swindle the fledgling state for their own ends.

“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.”

The SFO launched a investigation into Unaoil in 2016, focusing on business deals involving Halliburton-KBR, Petrofac, ABB, Leighton Holdings, Rolls Royce and Amec Foster Wheeler.

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