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Total faces investigation over $2bn Iran contract [paid bribes to win a HUGE gas contract in Iran]
Financial Times ^ | Dec 20, 2006 | Martin Arnold in Paris

Posted on 12/19/2006 7:44:57 PM PST by jdm

A Paris judge has launched an investigation into allegations that Total, the French oil and gas group, paid bribes to win a $2bn gas contract in Iran almost a decade ago.

The move is a further blow for Christophe de Margerie, Total's head of exploration and production, who was involved in negotiating the Iranian South Pars contract and is due to take over as chief executive in February.

Mr de Margerie, head of Total's Middle East activities from 1995 to 1999, is facing separate charges over allegations that he was involved in corruption during the scandal-plagued UN oil-for-food programme in Iraq.

The latest investigation stems from the discovery of SFr100m ($82m) in two Swiss bank accounts, allegedly paid by Total to an Iranian intermediary to help the French company's consortium win the South Pars contract. The money has been frozen.

A French judicial official told the Financial Times that Switzerland had dropped its money laundering inquiry into the affair and passed evidence to the Paris prosecutor. Total declined to comment.

One of the judges charged with the new investigation, Philippe Courroye, is also running the investigation into Mr de Margerie over the oil-for-food corruption case. The move is a further setback for the image of France's biggest company, which has a market capitalisation of more than €130bn ($171bn) and 95,000 staff. Yet investors seemed relatively sanguine about the news, and Total shares fell 50 cents to €54.50.

Mr de Margerie is due to succeed Thierry Desmarest as chief executive when the latter steps up to be chairman after the group's annual results in February.

Known as "Big Moustache" for his grey handlebar moustache, the 55-year-old expert on the Gulf region's oil sector has denied all charges of corruption in the oil-for-food scandal.

Total won the South Pars contract in 1997 as part of an international consortium, including Russia's Gazprom, Malaysia's Petronas and Iran's state-owned NIOC.

The French group has been in Iran since the 1950s, though recently it resisted pressure from the US to isolate the Islamic state over its controversial nuclear enrichment programme.

Total gave its 40 per cent stake in the South Pars project back to NIOC in 2004 under the terms of the deal. But it still has rights to a share of production from the gas field, equivalent to 18,000 barrels this year, below 1 per cent of its global production.

The French fraud squad raided Total's headquarters in March on behalf of Swiss authorities in relation to the bribery case. But Total and the French government prevented the findings of the search from being used for "national interest" reasons.

TOPICS: Business/Economy; Foreign Affairs; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: france; gazprom; iran; iraq; malaysia; oilforfood; paris; petronas; russia; southpars; total
... ah, the French and their ongoing multi-billion$ projects with a terrorist state.
1 posted on 12/19/2006 7:45:06 PM PST by jdm
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To: jdm

The French have nothing but corruption to qualify their existence. This can't be a surprise.

2 posted on 12/19/2006 7:47:52 PM PST by ritewingwarrior (Where does free speech end, and sedition begin?)
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Comment #3 Removed by Moderator

A Norwegian company was accused of being bribed by Iranian officials

4 posted on 12/19/2006 7:48:55 PM PST by Biscuit85 (I hate CNN!)
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To: jdm
Nothing will happen......

they will just bribe more people........

and it will all just go away.

5 posted on 12/19/2006 7:51:11 PM PST by Nitro (A)
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To: jdm

Wow! A crooked oil company.

Who'd a thunk it?

I worked for one of those rotten companies for 26 years and always felt dirty. Now I have redeemed myself and I am happy when I awaken in the morning.

6 posted on 12/19/2006 9:31:12 PM PST by 43north (7 of 11 living things are insects. This explains liberals and islamofascists.)
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