Total Corruption Charges Dropped in Iraq Oil-Food Case, AFP Says

Total SA Chief Executive Officer Christophe de Margerie had corruption charges over Iraq’s oil-for-food program dropped, according to Agence France-Presse.

Europe’s third-largest oil producer also had charges of misconduct dropped by a Paris court, the newswire said today. Total officials weren’t immediately available to comment.

“When it bought Iraqi oil, the company did it totally legally,” Total has previously said. “All received deliveries were authorized by the United Nations.”

The UN oil-for-food campaign allowed Saddam Hussein’s regime to sell crude from 1996 to 2003 to obtain food and medicine that was in short supply because of sanctions. Iraq has alleged its people lost $7 billion of humanitarian goods because of the state’s corruption of the program. At issue was whether 18 people and two companies aided those at fault.

The CEO, 61, was accused of enabling the misuse of company assets, while claims against Total included influence peddling.

In 2005, an inquiry led by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker found Iraq began a kickback scheme in 1999 and more than 2,200 companies paid almost $1.8 billion to win contracts. About 60 percent of companies in the program paid surcharges or kickbacks on humanitarian goods, according to the report.

In the French investigation, which began in 2002, Total was accused of paying surcharges through intermediaries in the form of mark-ups over the market price for oil. Total denied making such payments and wasn’t faulted in the Volcker report.

In more than three decades at Total, de Margerie has held positions including head of exploration and production, the largest division. He was head of Middle East operations from 1990 to 1995 and took over as CEO in February 2007.

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