Oil Firm Emails Reveal Global Bribery Scheme
An investigation by the Huffington Post and Fairfax Media has obtained thousands of internal emails from the Monaco-based oil industry consulting firm Unaoil, allegedly showing that it cooperated with officials from Samsung, Hyundai, Petronas, Sinopec, Yokogawa, ISU, Keppel, Ranhill, Halliburton, Eni, Rolls-Royce, Technip, Kvaerner, and National Oilwell Varco, among others, to rig bids and bribe officials for energy-related contracts in the Middle East and Africa.
In response to the information, Monaco's government has detained Unaoil executives and raided their homes and offices, in cooperation with the United Kingdom's Serious Fraud Office. The FBI, U.S. Department of Justice and Australian Federal Police are now jointly investigating the company, a private firm operated by Mr. Ata Ahsani and his sons Cyrus and Saman.
As an example of the content of the correspondence, one email from ISU vice president Joon Lee instructs a Unaoil representative to "come to see him as you told me at a hotel . . . I suggest to you with around 20,000 Eruo [sic] at this visit." Lee was also allegedly working as a bribery double agent, accepting kickbacks from Unaoil to keep the consultants on ISU's payroll.
In another, executives from Samsung and Hyundai conspired to rig a tender so as to swing $1.8 billion in construction contracts to the Korean firms for two refinery facilities in Algeria. They allegedly paid millions in bribes; Unaoil took a commission of $16 million. As part of the scheme, they allegedly paid off an executive from Spanish firm Tecnicas Reunidas to submit a low-quality proposal, not good enough to win, but good enough to qualify and to prevent the tender from getting cancelled for a shortage of bids.
Unaoil is also said to have been deeply involved in bribing oil officials in Iraq during the reconstruction period following the fall of Saddam Hussein.
All firms implicated in the scandal say that they are committed to ethical conduct, are conducting their own internal investigations and are cooperating with investigators. Some, including Rolls-Royce, terminated their relationship with Unaoil before the revelations emerged. Unaoil has denied the charges.
Fairfax and Huffington Post say that Unaoil operated relatively openly, with bank accounts in the U.S. and U.K. and close personal connections between top executives and high society figures, though there is at this point no indication that financial institutions and well-placed individuals were aware of its activities.