Total sees no reason for concern over oil-for-food charge
London (Platts)--3Aug2011/707 am EDT/1107 GMT
Total made clear Wednesday it saw no grounds for concern over the
decision by a French judge to refer the company and its CEO Christophe de
Margerie to the courts over alleged violations of the UN oil-for-food program
The decision, which emerged late Tuesday, followed an earlier move by
the judge, Serge Tournaire, in April 2010 to pursue the case against Total,
de Margerie and 17 others including the former minister of the interior
The investigation into Total and the individuals was launched in 2002,
and Total said there was "nothing new" in the latest developments.
In April 2010, Total acknowledged it has been charged with corruption
and influence-peddling relating to the Iraqi oil-for-food program.
"We are confident about the trial's outcome and that Total will be
cleared of these allegations and the charges to be dropped," a company
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The danger to the company and its CEO is minimal, reports in the French
media suggested, while a source said Wednesday the case was "a lot of noise
Pasqua's lawyer, Leon-Lef Forster, told French radio he had "no concern
whatsoever" about his client being cleared.
The case against Total, de Margerie, Pasqua and others is expected to go
before the criminal court in Paris in 2012 or early 2013.
Tournaire's decision to pursue the case came as a surprise as the French
prosecutor's office has already requested twice that the case be dropped.
Total is also adamant it has done nothing wrong, pointing to a report
published in 2005 by a UN independent committee headed by Paul Volcker.
"The Volcker Report, issued by the independent inquiry committee into
the UN oil-for-food program, found that no corruption had occurred," Total
De Margerie was held for questioning for 48 hours in 2006 over
allegations that Total had in effect bribed Iraqi public officials in order
to purchase oil in violation of a strict embargo.
At the time, Total said that "at no time did the group circumvent the
United Nations embargo against Iraq and strictly adhered to the rules of the
Total added then that "all oil acquired by the company, without
exception, was purchased officially with the required authorizations under UN
within the framework of the oil-for-food program put in place in 1996. The
group has never purchased, either directly or indirectly, oil that has been
smuggled illegally from Iraq."
The oil-for-food program, set up by the UN Security Council while Iraq
was under sanctions as a humanitarian program to allow Iraqis to sell oil and
buy food and medicines with the proceeds, ended after the US-led invasion of
the country in March 2003.
In October 2005, the Volcker report was damning in its assessment of the
$100 billion, seven-year program.
It lambasted "serious vulnerabilities in the program" and "failures in
UN oversight and management."
--Stuart Elliott, firstname.lastname@example.org