Niall Hearty of financial crime specialists Rahman Ravelli believes the outcome will be a big relief to the agency.
A former sales manager of SBM Offshore was jailed for three-and-a-half years for bribing public officials to win oil contracts in post-occupation Iraq.
Paul Bond, 68, was found guilty of two counts of bribery after a retrial at London’s Southwark Crown Court. He is the fourth executive convicted after a five-year Serious Fraud Office (SFO) investigation into the Monaco-based consultancy Unaoil. The investigation uncovered the payment of more than more than $17 million in bribes to secure contracts worth $1.7 billion.
Unaoil employees were accused of working on behalf of SBM, a Dutch energy services company SBM, to pay over $900,000 in bribes to Iraqi public officials at the country’s South Oil Company and Ministry of Oil to win a $55 million contract for offshore mooring buoys.
SBM Offshore was fined $238 million by the US Department of Justice in 2017 under a deferred prosecution agreement.
Basil Al Jarah, Unaoil’s former Iraq partner, was sentenced to three years and four months in jail last year after pleading guilty to five bribery counts. Unaoil’s former territory managers for Iraq, Ziad Akle and Stephen Whiteley, were jailed for five and three years respectively.
The SFO investigation had focused on the Ahsani family, which ran Unaoil. But unsuccessful attempts at extradition, leading to a row with US prosecutors over the extradition of Saman Ahsani, ended the SFO’s attempts to prosecute the Ahsanis. In 2019, Saman Ahsani and his brother Cyrus pleaded guilty in the US to paying millions of dollars in bribes in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia.
This latest conviction comes at an important time for the SFO, as it prepares to respond to the recently-published HMCPSI (HM Crown Prosecution Service Inspectorate) report that found that the agency was not quick enough in responding to complaints about cases and was not keeping adequate records of disputes.
The trial outcome will certainly be welcomed by the SFO. Its lengthy investigation saw one of its senior figures dismissed – and then win a subsequent employment tribunal – and its Director Lisa Osofsky criticised for her communications with a private investigator with links to some of those investigated.