Total, Vitol Fined in Iraq Oil-For-Food Case by French Court

  • Paris appeals court fines Total 750,000 euros for corruption
  • Vitol fined 300,000 euros as court reverses previous ruling

French oil company Total SA was fined 750,000 euros ($826,125) after judges found it guilty of corruption in Iraq’s oil-for-food program.

Total is guilty of corrupting foreign civil servants, judges at the Paris court of appeals said in a Friday ruling. The penalty comes after Total was cleared of all charges by a Paris court in 2013. Total’s lawyer, Jean Veil, said he was “disappointed” by the ruling. The French company said through a spokeswoman that it is evaluating its next move.

Vitol SA was fined 300,000 euros by judges at the Paris court of appeals. The Swiss oil-trading company said it plans to appeal the ruling to France’s supreme court. “Vitol continues to deny that it is guilty of the corruption charges brought in France,” said spokeswoman Andrea Schlaepfer. The firm had already pleaded guilty to theft in the U.S. and agreed to a $17.5 million fine for paying kickbacks to Iraq.

The United Nations 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.

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.

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