Sat, 16 Jan 2021

Bribes allegedly paid to get $1.46bn Iraq oil contracts

By Jay Jackson, Albuquerque News.Net
12 Jan 2021, 04:57 GMT+10

SYDNEY, NSW, Australia - A man was arrested after he left mandatory hotel quarantine in Sydney on Monday.

Shortly after he was brought before the Sydney Local Court via video link and charged in relation to a long-running foreign bribery investigation.

The man arrived back in Australia on 27 December 2020 from France and immediately entered a 14-day hotel quarantine, which is mandatory for all international arrivals into Australia (except from New Zealand).

The arrest follows the November 2020 court appearance of former Australian-registered company Leighton Holdings Limited executive Russell Waugh, a 54-year-old Brisbane man arrested and charged with two foreign bribery offences as a result of an intricate nine-year investigation.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP)'s investigation stems from a report from Leighton Holdings about alleged improper payments made by Singapore registered operating entity Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd, regarding two contracts with Iraq Crude Oil Export in 2010 and 2011.

The man arrested and who appeared in a Sydney court on Monday is David Savage, another Leighton Holdings executive, who was reportedly paid $18 million for his services which spanned 2007 to 2011. Soon after he left Leighton in 2011 he acquired French castle Chateau de Jalesnes, once the home of the grandson of the King of Spain.

Leighton Holdings is an Australian multinational contractor active in telecommunications, engineering and infrastructure, building and property, mining and resources, and environmental services in Australia, Southeast Asia, New Zealand, and the Middle East. Leighton Holdings was renamed the CIMIC Group in 2015.

The investigation, named Operation Trig, which began in November 2011, concerned the awarding to Leighton Offshore Pty., Ltd., two contracts for the development and installation of onshore and offshore oil pipelines designed to increase the capacity of Iraq's crude oil export.

The contracts, which had a combined value of USD 1.46 billion - had to be approved by the Iraqi Ministry of Oil and the South Oil Company of Iraq.

AFP investigators allege Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd funnelled bribes through entities associated with Iyer-associated companies and Unaoil to guarantee approvals for the Iraq Crude Oil Export contracts.

Police allege the key targets of the bribery scheme were Iraqi Ministry of Oil officials and government officials within the South Oil Company of Iraq.

The investigation identified approximately USD 77.6 million in suspicious payments made via third party contractors.

The Australian Federal Police says it has been in collaboration with the UK's Serious Fraud Office, the U.S. Department of Justice and FBI, throughout the nine-year-long investigation and have:

  • seized more than two million documents related to the projects;
  • obtained evidence from 10 countries;
  • provided evidence to help foreign law enforcement partners secure guilty pleas to foreign bribery charges; and
  • obtained key witness statements that have allowed charges to be laid and put before the Court.

In November 2020 an arrest warrant was issued for a third man, Peter Cox, aged 62, who is based in Asia. The AFP says it has not ruled out further arrests or charges, with investigations continuing.

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