The former CEO and chief operations officer of Monaco-based Unaoil have pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme to corruptly facilitate millions of dollars in bribe payments to officials in multiple countries, the Department of Justice announced.
Cyrus Ahsani and Saman Ahsani, both of the United Kingdom, each pleaded guilty on March 25 to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act for “conspiring to facilitate bribes on behalf of companies in foreign countries in order to secure oil and gas contracts,” the Department of Justice said. Additionally, U.K. resident Steven Hunter, former business development director, also pleaded guilty on Aug. 2, 2018, for his role in the bribery scheme.
The Department of Justice did not announce these guilty pleas until Wednesday. Both Ahsanis are set for sentencing on April 20, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore of the Southern District of Texas. Hunter’s sentencing is scheduled for March 13, 2020, before U.S. District Judge David Hittner.
According to court documents, former CEO Cyrus Ahsani and former COO Saman Ahsani managed Unaoil, which provided services for multinational companies operating in the energy sector. From approximately 1999 to 2016, the Ahsanis allegedly conspired with others to make millions of dollars in bribe payments to government officials in Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya, and Syria.
Additionally, court documents allege the Ahsanis laundered the proceeds of their bribery scheme in order to conceal the scheme and destroy evidence to disrupt investigations in the United States and elsewhere. For his part, Hunter facilitated bribe payments to Libyan officials between about 2009 and 2015, according to the Department of Justice.
The investigation was a global effort. The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Guernsey, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom each provided significant assistance, as did the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Eurojust.
In July 2019, global oil and gas services provider TechnipFMC—a former Unaoil client—and its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary Technip USA reached a combined $301.3 million settlement to resolve foreign bribery charges with authorities in the United States and Brazil.
In 2017, Dutch oil and gas services company SBM Offshore—another Unaoil client—and its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary SBM Offshore USA agreed to resolve criminal charges and pay a criminal penalty of $238 million in connection with schemes involving the bribery of foreign officials in Brazil, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan, and Iraq.
The U.K. Serious Fraud Office has also announced numerous investigations connected to Unaoil. Since opening its investigation into Unaoil in March 2016, the SFO has been probing the activities of the company, its officers, its employees, and its agents in connection with suspected offenses of bribery, corruption, and money laundering. Other companies sweept in include Petrofac, KBR, and ABB. Several individuals have been charged, to date, with conspiracy to make corrupt payments to Unaoil’s client, SBM Offshore, to secure the award of contracts in Iraq.
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