March 22, 2007

French Oil Execs Arrested For Bribery In Iran

In a move reminiscent of the French involvement with the Oil-For-Food Program at the UN, three top executives of the French oil giant Total found themselves under arrest for bribery. In this case, the three didn't send money to Saddam Hussein for access to Iraqi oil fields, but rather sent millions of dollars under the table to the Iranian mullahcracy:

The head of the French oil giant Total SA was detained by police yesterday over suspicions that the company paid millions of dollars in bribes for its operations in an Iranian offshore gas field.

Christophe de Margerie, 55, and two directors, were summoned on the orders of Philippe Courroye, a judge who last year placed him under criminal investigation in a case involving Iraq. That concerned the company’s suspected payment of bribes to aquire supplies in the UN Oil-for-Food programme in 1999-2003.

Total, France’s biggest public company, said that it was “completely behind its executives” and insisted that the Iranian agreements were legal. ...

Swiss investigators uncovered evidence of illicit payments and passed the case to France last December. According to Le Monde, a total of €60 million had allegedly been paid to Iranian officials up to 2003, including sums paid into accounts controlled by a son of Hojatoleslam Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, the former Iranian President.

There are direct connections to the OFF scandal. CEO de Margerie, called the Big Moustache by his peers, allegedly paid off middlemen for access to Iraqi oil contracts. A French court ordered his arrest last fall on those charges, which are still being investigated. de Margerie also sits at the center of an alleged money-laundering scheme in Cameroon.

de Margerie is apparently providing a full-employment program to lawyers and investogators.

Will this be another OFF scandal? Probably not. The sanctions on Iran now did not exist in 2003, when this bribery allegedly occurred, at least not in Europe. It does show, though, that any sanctions regime that involves oil will be difficult to maintain for long, as chronically corrupt entities like Total will break any rules in order to gain economic advantage over their rivals. This rot starts from the head.


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Comments (5)

Posted by stackja1945 [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 22, 2007 5:51 AM

Again we hear:
Rick: How can you close me up? On what grounds?
Captain Renault: I'm shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on in here!
[a croupier hands Renault a pile of money]
Croupier: Your winnings, sir.
Captain Renault: [sotto voce] Oh, thank you very much.
Captain Renault: [aloud] Everybody out at once!
Captain Renault: Major Strasser has been shot. Round up the usual suspects.
The French never seem to change. Totally?

Posted by TomB [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 22, 2007 7:38 AM

As I said somewhere before: Hey guys, there is a lot of money to be made on the UN (read American) sanctions!

Posted by jerry [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 22, 2007 9:39 AM


I find myself in whole hearted agreement with you about efficacy of sanctions but I come to radically different conclusions then you would.

Your preference is to support the objectives of anti-American dictatorship. I prefer dealing with thugs with the big stick.

Posted by unclesmrgol [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 22, 2007 2:15 PM

American blood for French oil.

Posted by Lew [TypeKey Profile Page] | March 22, 2007 2:42 PM

The headline might just a swell read "French Oil Execs Arrested for...Well,...being French!" La Belle France has been the capital of venality for so long that its almost redundant to use the phrase "French Corruption" anymore. And this is one of the countries that our Johnny McCain wants to go suck up to if he get's elected?

Quite frankly, I'm beginning to think that having France think badly of us is an asset instead of a liability.