Thursday, August 5

Conservative Donor-Led Oil Company Investigated for Alleged Bribery in Nine Countries | Petrofac


A multinational oil company run by a major conservative donor has been investigated for allegedly paying bribes of millions of pounds to secure contracts in nine countries.

The anti-corruption agency Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has been examining allegedly suspicious payments made by the UK-based company Petrofac.

The firm was headed by Ayman Asfari, who along with his wife has donated nearly £ 800,000 for the Conservative party in a personal capacity.

Details of the alleged payments, dating back to the early 2000s, indicate that the SFO’s investigation has been more extensive than previously publicly known. The investigation, which began at least four years Ago, continue.

The SFO has been examining alleged payments made by Petrofac for more than 15 years to land contracts in the Middle East, Africa and Asia, including Kuwait and Algeria.

Other alleged payments that have been analyzed by the SFO are related to contracts awarded to Petrofac in Iran, Syria, Bahrain and Kazakhstan, according to documents and sources with knowledge of the investigation.

The SFO investigation has obtained a guilty plea from a former senior executive, David Lufkin. He has admitted to working with Petrofac employees to offer or pay bribes totaling $ 80 million (£ 57 million) to win contracts worth a total of $ 7.5 billion in Saudi Arabia, Iraq and the United Arab Emirates. .

Lufkin, who has not yet been sentenced, is due to appearing in a London court on Monday.

Petrofac has also come under scrutiny for government support. The Guardian had previously revealed that David Cameron, after leaving Downing Street, lobbied the Bahraini royal family to persuade them to award a $ 5 billion oil contract to Petrofac in 2017.

Just six months after stepping down as prime minister, Cameron promoted the company during a two-day visit to Bahrain, where he met the state’s crown prince. Cameron was flown back to Britain on a plane belonging to Asfari, the co-founder and later CEO of Petrofac.

In the same year, Theresa May, while in Downing Street, also lobbied the Bahraini royal family to assist in the company’s bid to win the oil contract. Petrofac, which did not win the contract, said the UK government did not give the company preferential treatment as a result of Asfari’s personal donations.

The lobbying of former prime ministers took place before it became publicly known that Petrofac was being investigated by the SFO on suspicion of bribery and money laundering.

A third conservative politician, Liam Fox, while he was Secretary for International Trade, also lobbied the Bahraini royal family to hand over the contract to Petrofac. Fox’s intervention came after the SFO announced its investigation into the company in May 2017. The Department of International Trade has previously said that Fox followed the correct processes and acted with due correction.

Asfari, 63, Petrofac CEO for nearly two decades until he resigned in late 2020. He is currently a non-executive director. It has been its largest shareholder.

In 1991, he co-founded the company that designs and builds facilities for the oil and gas energy industry. Has about 9,400 employees in 31 countries.

During its investigation, the SFO arrested and interviewed Asfari, among others. He was interrogated under caution in May 2017 and released without charge.

A Petrofac spokesperson said: “Three years ago we confirmed that the SFO investigation into Petrofac had been and would be continue to be broad in scope both in time and scope, which is to be expected; furthermore, during our constructive engagement with the OFS over the past four years, we recognize their stated approach to keeping pace and more importantly focusing on their investigations as they progress, and we hope to close this matter as soon as possible.

Asfari and his wife, Sawsan, made donations to the Tories between 2009 and 2017. In 2014, Cameron, while in Downing Street, named him one of the 43 business ambassadors for the prime minister, helping the British government to promote trade and investment.

Lufkin, 54, formerly head of global sales for Petrofac International, pleaded guilty to 14 counts of bribery between 2012 and 2018.

The indictment against Lufkin also accuses several of his former Petrofac colleagues of acting with him. make corrupt payments to influence the award of contracts to the company. Asfari is not listed in the indictment.

It identified three of the countries where Petrofac is alleged to have paid bribes.

Petrofac has previously said that no charges have been brought against any Petrofac group company or any officer or employee in service since the SFO investigation began.

The SFO launched its investigation after Australian journalists working for Fairfax Media documents published in 2016 suggesting that Petrofac had hired a Monaco-based company Unaoil to make payments to secure contracts in Iraq, Kazakhstan, Kuwait and Syria. Petrofac said a independent review had not found evidence of misconduct.

Representatives for Asfari said they did not want to comment. The OFS declined to comment on how your investigation continues.


www.theguardian.com

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