FBI, Justice Department Launch Probe Into International Oil Industry Bribery Scandal

The FBI, U.S. Department of Justice, and anti-corruption authorities in the U.K. and Australia have launched a joint investigation into widespread systemic corruption in the global oil industry, the Huffington Post reported on Thursday.

The probe is likely to be one of the largest in history because of the number of countries and companies involved.

Federal authorities are working with British and Australian investigators to investigate the Monaco-based consulting firm Unaoil and its business partners. Huffington and Fairfax Media recently exposed tens of thousands of leaked emails from the company in the interactive report called "The Bribe Factory."

The facts, summed up briefly, are this: Unaoil, controlled by the wealthy Ahsani family, bribed government officials in oil-rich states all over the world on behalf of multinational corporations to win lucrative oil contracts worth billions.

Inquisitr previously covered the Unaoil scandal. Called the "world's biggest bribe scandal," the leak has exposed their activities going back over a decade, and shown how some of the world's biggest companies were actively connected and complicit with what might be the largest case of corruption in human history.

Now, the FBI and the Justice Department have partnered with the U.K. National Crime Agency and Australian Federal Police to begin investigating Unaoil and some of its multinational clients. The Huffington Post reported that serious questions still remain unanswered.
"Questions are emerging about how Unaoil operated for so many years with impunity, using bank accounts in New York and London to launder funds and pay bribes from 2000 to 2012, and possibly more recently."
The revelations of massive global bribery implicate not only government officials in many states, such as Iraq, Iran, Libya, Tunisia, Syria, Yemen, the UAE, and Kuwait, but also some of the biggest and most trusted names in big business in the world. Some of the biggest were listed by The Age in the second part of the report.
"Texas firm National Oilwell Varco, Singapore conglomerate Keppel, Norway's Aker Kvaerner and giant Turkish joint venture GATE are also implicated. Information from hundreds of thousands of emails to Unaoil's chief executive, Cyrus Ahsani, show individual executives and managers from Halliburton and Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), which split in 2007, knew or suspected that Unaoil was acting corruptly to win contracts in Kazakhstan.

"Managers from Eni, Spanish Firm Tecnicas Reunidas, French firm Technip, drilling giant MI-SWACO and Rolls-Royce not only actively supported bribery but were offered, or pocketed, their own kickbacks. And US defence giant Honeywell and Australian firm Leighton Offshore agreed to hide bribes inside fraudulent contracts in Iraq."

Part two of the interactive article also mentions Unaoil's corruption activities in the post-Soviet Caspian states, especially Kazakhstan.
Although the report says that there is "no suggestion that Powers, Lamont or the Monaco royals are aware of Unaoil's corruption," the leaked emails have also shown that several prominent British businessmen, including oil executives Peter Warner, Stuart K Steele, Basil Al Jarah, and Leo Bortolazzo, have been involved with Unaoil's corrupt activities.

In a separate article, the Huffington Post described threats made by Unaoil to seek injunction to prevent the publication of its leaked documents, and also requested that Fairfax Media turn over all copies of confidential information possessed by Nick McKenzie and Richard Baker, two of the journalists that broke the story.

These threats turned out to be moot, as the results of the six-month investigation were posted online Wednesday.

"The sources of this story never asked for money," McKenzie wrote. "What they wanted was for some of the wealthiest and most powerful figures in governments and companies across the globe to be exposed for acting corruptly, and with impunity, for years."

[Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]