Oil-for-Food Trial in France
The Oil-for-Food trial began today in the Paris Criminal Court. The defendants include TOTAL S.A. and Christophe de Margerie, in his capacity as Senior Vice President, Middle East, at the time of the alleged offenses.
The trial comes 11 years after the investigation first began. Furthermore, the Public Prosecutor has twice recommended — in August 2009 and October 2010 — that the case be dismissed, determining that neither Total nor its employees committed the alleged offenses.
Nevertheless, the judge who has been investigating the case since late 2009 accused TOTAL S.A. of bribery and corruption, aiding and abetting, and benefiting from influence peddling. He also alleges that Christophe de Margerie, in his capacity as Senior Vice President, Middle East, at the time, aided and abetted misuse of corporate property when he directed a business contact who said he had access to Iraqi oil to Total’s Trading Division.
According to the investigation, from end-2000 to 2002 Total knowingly purchased oil on which surcharges had been paid, thereby financing commissions received by public officials. The judge also alleges that in 1999 and 2000, Total knowingly purchased oil that the Iraqi regime had allocated to prominent individuals in return for their influence with the French government.
There are no facts to back up these allegations.
Total denies that it had been informed that surcharges had been paid on some of the oil purchased in the market and that other oil had been allocated to prominent individuals in return for their lobbying on behalf of Iraq. Total legally purchased the oil concerned. In all cases, the oil was U.N. approved.
Furthermore, the report issued by the U.N. Independent Inquiry Committee ruled out bribery and corruption related to the Oil-for-Food Program.
Given that the Public Prosecutor has twice recommended that the case be dismissed, Total is confident that the trial will show that the allegations against it are unfounded in fact and in law.
However complex the situation in our host countries, Total operates in compliance with applicable legislation, its Code of Conduct and its internal control and compliance programs.
The Oil-for-Food Program was introduced by the United Nations in 1996 to ease the hardship of the Iraqi people following the sanctions imposed six years earlier when Iraq invaded Kuwait. The program allowed Iraq to sell its oil, with the proceeds deposited to an escrow account used to purchase food, drugs and staples, under the oversight of the United Nations. The program was suspended following the 2003 invasion of Iraq by the United States and its allies.
For the duration of the program, Iraqi oil was purchased either directly from state-owned State Oil Marketing Organization (SOMO) or in the market from traders. SOMO selected the buyers — all approved by their home countries — and determined the amounts sold and the selling price, under U.N. oversight.
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