Total back in French court over Iraq oil-for-food corruption

14th October 2015, Comments 0 comments

French energy giant Total was back in a Paris court Wednesday facing renewed efforts to prosecute it for corruption linked to the UN's "oil-for-food" programme established for Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule.

More than a dozen defendants, including Total, its former chief executive and a former French minister were cleared of corruption in 2013 after an eight-year investigation.

They had been accused of siphoning cash from the $64 billion (54 billion euros) UN programme that allowed Iraq, then under crippling international sanctions, to sell limited quantities of oil to buy humanitarian supplies between 1996 and 2003.

But prosecutors are appealing that decision in a new trial that is set to run until November 6.

Saddam forced foreign companies involved in the programme to pay a 10 percent surcharge -- accounted for as "transport costs" or "after-sales service" -- which in reality went to the regime's coffers.

A UN inquiry led by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker alleged in 2005 that the 2,200 companies involved in the programme had paid a total of $1.8 billion in kickbacks to win supply deals. Of those, 180 were French.

Two individuals who were accused in the original French trial have since died: former French interior minister Charles Pasqua and former Total CEO Christophe de Margerie, who was killed in a plane accident last year.

A second French trial, featuring 14 companies including Renault Trucks and Legrand, also ended this year with the charges being dropped.

That decision is also being appealed, though no date has yet been set for a new trial.

© 2015 AFP

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