Oil company's offices raided in global corruption probe

Unaoil allegedly acted as the middleman for payment of bribes

SYDNEY/MILAN • The authorities in Monaco raided the offices of energy services company Unaoil and the homes of its directors after Britain sought help investigating alleged corruption in the global oil industry.

The Huffington Post and Australia's Fairfax media reported last week that Unaoil served as an intermediary that facilitated payments between international oil companies and government officials.

Monaco's government said in a statement on its website that it acted after receiving an urgent request for international judicial assistance in criminal matters from Britain's Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Unaoil directors were questioned by Monaco police on Tuesday and Wednesday, the government said.

Reports also said that the US Department of Justice and anti-corruption police in Britain and Australia had launched a joint investigation into the activities of Unaoil.

The US Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the allegations against Unaoil, a source familiar with the matter said. The US Department of Justice declined to comment.

The media reports, citing hundreds of thousands of e-mail messages, also link several multinationals to corrupt practices, including claims of bribery and bid rigging to win oil contracts in countries such as Kazakhstan and Iraq.

Monaco-based Unaoil provides industrial solutions to the energy sector in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, according to its website. "Due to recent developments, it would be inappropriate for the company to comment at this time," a Unaoil spokesman said.

The media reports, citing hundreds of thousands of e-mail messages, also link several multinationals to corrupt practices, including claims of bribery and bid rigging to win oil contracts in countries such as Kazakhstan and Iraq.

Italian oil major Eni, one of the companies mentioned in the reports, indicated that it would hold an internal inquiry into the allegations.

"We do not comment on the results of possible internal investigations," a spokesman for Eni said. The alleged behaviour of some of its employees was to the detriment of the group and clashed with its code of ethics, according to the spokesman. "None of the people mentioned in the articles are currently employed by Eni," the spokesman said.

The media reports said US construction giant KBR Inc paid Unaoil millions of dollars from 2004 until at least 2009.

KBR said it does not tolerate illegal or unethical practices and is committed to complying with all applicable laws.

"We take any allegations of corruption and unethical business practices seriously," the company said.

A spokesman for Britain's SFO said it was "aware of the allegations", but would not comment further.

Agencies in Australia were aware of allegations of the involvement of a number of Australian companies in foreign bribery matters, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said.

The AFP said it was conducting ongoing investigations into a number of allegations, but declined to comment specifically on the focus of its probes.

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on April 03, 2016, with the headline 'Oil company's offices raided in global corruption probe'. Print Edition | Subscribe