Qld man charged over $2b Iraqi oil bribery

Nick Gibbs
·2-min read

A 54-year-old Brisbane man was a "significant player" in a complex scheme to bribe Iraqi officials to approve oil contracts worth billions of dollars, police will allege

A nine-year investigation focusing on two contracts worth a combined $US1.46 billion ($A2 billion) led to the man's arrest at his home on Wednesday morning.

Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney described the investigation as a "jigsaw puzzle" and hugely significant for the Australian Federal Police.

"Police will allege that payments through a series of complex company arrangements were made as bribes to Iraqi officials to guarantee approvals for the contracts," he said.

The contracts involve the development and installation of onshore and offshore oil pipelines designed to increase the capacity of Iraq's crude oil export.

Investigators identified $US77.6 million ($A106.3 million) in suspicious payments made via third-party contractors.

The AFP began Operation Trig after receiving a report about alleged improper payments made by Singapore-registered company Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd regarding the contracts with Iraq Crude Oil Export in 2010 and 2011.

The report was received from Australian-registered company Leighton Holdings Ltd.

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

"The offshore company was based in Singapore but there was a range of complex subsidiary companies that this money flowed through to disguise some of the payments into Iraq," Commissioner McCartney said.

Arrest warrants were issued for three men aged 54, 60 and 62 this week.

The 54-year-old man has been charged with two foreign bribery offences.

He was also charged with allegedly engaging in conduct to falsify books linked to the corporation, and knowingly providing misleading information.

Arrest warrants have been obtained for two men understood to be located in Europe and Asia.

Both have close connections to Australia.

The nine-year investigation involved the seizing of more than two million documents, with evidence gathered from 10 countries.

The documents have provided evidence to help foreign law enforcement agencies secure guilty pleas to bribery charges.

Commissioner McCartney said foreign bribery investigations required strong collaboration with international law enforcement partners.

"There is a misconception that foreign bribery is just the cost of doing business, it isn't," he said.

"It reflects poorly on our national character and inflicts generational economic damage on countries impacted."

He said investigators had shown "outstanding resilience" over the past nine years, piecing together facts and allegations of alleged corruption.

The AFP has not ruled out further arrests or charges as the investigation continues.