Third Unaoil conviction quashed in London

·1-min read
FILE PHOTO: A sign is displayed in an unmarked Serious Fraud Office vehicle parked outside a building, in Mayfair, central London

LONDON (Reuters) - A third man convicted in Britain over how oil contracts were secured in post-occupation Iraq has had his conviction overturned by a London court, further unravelling a high-profile bribery case prosecuted by the UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO).

The SFO did not contest the appeal by Stephen Whiteley, 66, a spokeswoman for the prosecutor said on Thursday. Two former co-defendants have already had their convictions overturned after senior judges ruled their trials had been unfair because of disclosure failings.

The SFO was commended for its "realistic approach" to the appeal, the spokeswoman added, as the agency's failings in the high-profile Unaoil bribery case were laid out again in a government-ordered review.

Whiteley, sentenced to three years in jail in 2020, was convicted after a four-year investigation into how Unaoil, a consultancy once run by the prominent Ahsani family, helped major Western companies win energy projects in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa over two decades.

London's Court of Appeal has already overturned the convictions of Whiteley's co-defendant Ziad Akle, a one-time Unaoil executive, and that of Paul Bond, a former manager at Dutch energy services firm SBM Offshore.

A fourth defendant in the case pleaded guilty in 2019.

"Our investigation into Unaoil uncovered the payment of $17 million in bribes that were paid to win contracts worth $1.7 billion in Iraq and we're proud to have exposed this serious wrongdoing," an SFO representative said.

(Reporting by Kirstin Ridley; Editing by Andrea Ricci)

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