Monaco-based brothers plead guilty to bribery scheme

Cyrus Ahsani and Saman Ahsani, CEO and COO of Monaco-based Unaoil, have pleaded guilty in a scheme to make millions of dollars in bribe payments to officials in multiple countries. The countries included Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria.



Guilty plea in March

The pair pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Texas back in March, but the Department of Justice only announced the news today. It’s not clear why there has been a delay. However it does answer the question of why the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office suddenly dropped its fraud investigation into Unaoil back in June.

Cyrus and Saman Ahsani are set for sentencing April 20, 2020.

Companies involved

Unaoil is an intermediary company that provided services for multinational companies operating in the energy sector. The information sheet lists two companies specifically;

  • Rolls Royce plc (paid £170 million in fines to the UK authorities in 2017, specifically related to Unaoil)
  • SBM Offshore NV (paid $475 million in fines worldwide in 2017 – some related to Brazil which don’t involve Unaoil)

A further 25 companies are unnamed, of which 5 have their head office in Houston.

Many of these companies have been named through previous press reports. They include;

  • TechnipFMC (paid SEC $5m to settle bribery allegations in Iraq)
  • KBR (allegedly paid Unaoil over $10 million to help it win contracts in Kazahkstan. DOJ and SEC investigations still ongoing)
  • Baker Hughes (investigation ongoing)
  • Weatherford
  • Cameron
  • Core Labs (investigation closed – no action taken)

Other companies involved include Honeywell, ABB, Samsung and Hyundai.

Downfall

Unaoil’s downfall started as a result of a 2013 court case involving an Australia company, Leighton Holdings. It had entered into an agreement with Unaoil with the aim of securing a $500 million Iraq pipeline contract but later referred the deal to the police for possible bribery.

Nick McKenzie, an Australian journalist started following the case and was soon contacted by a whistleblower who gave him a hard drive containing 10 years’ worth of internal Unaoil emails.

You can read the investigative report by The Age newspaper here

Ahsani charges filed by DOJ

https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/oil-executives-plead-guilty-roles-bribery-scheme-involving-foreign-officials

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