WASHINGTON - French energy
giant Total was ordered on appeal Friday to
pay 750,000 euros for siphoning cash from
the UN "oil-for-food" programme that aided
sanctions-hit Iraq under Saddam Hussein.
The Swiss-based oil group
Vitol was fined 300,000 euros ($330,000), on
top of $17.5 million it has already been
ordered to pay by a US court.
They were among more than
a dozen individuals and companies that had
been cleared of corruption in 2013 after an
Among those cleared was
France's former interior minister Charles
Pasqua, who died last June, aged 88.
The convictions Friday
were for embezzling money from the $64
billion (54 billion euro) UN programme that
allowed Iraq, then under crippling
international sanctions, to sell limited
quantities of oil to buy humanitarian
supplies between 1996 and 2003.
France's former ambassador
to the United Nations, Jean-Bernard Merimee,
and ex-diplomat Serge Boidevaix were fined
50,000 and 75,000 euros, respectively.
The court meted out fines
ranging from 3,000 euros suspended to
100,000 euros to 11 defendants, while one
Total's lawyer Jean Veil
said he was "disappointed" by the 750,000
euro fine slapped on his client, the maximum
possible at the time of the wrongdoing.
Saddam forced foreign companies involved in
the programme to pay a 10-percent surcharge
-- accounted for as "transport costs" or
"after-sales service" -- which in reality
went to the Iraqi regime's coffers.
A UN inquiry led by former US Federal
Reserve chairman Paul Volcker alleged in
2005 that the 2,200 companies from 66
countries involved in the programme had paid
a total of $1.8 billion in kickbacks to win
supply deals. Of those firms, 180 were
- Annan took blame -
Kofi Annan, who was UN secretary general at
the time, assumed responsibility for
management lapses in the programme, but
ruled out resigning.
Many members of the US Congress, furious
over Annan's opposition to the US-led
invasion of Iraq in 2003 -- which he called
"illegal" because it was not supported by
the UN Security Council -- had clamoured for
his resignation over the scandal.
The affair reached close to home when it
emerged that Cotecna, a Swiss company that
employed Annan's son Kojo, had won a large
contract under the oil-for-food programme.
Appeals on the acquittals of 14 companies
including Renault Trucks and Legrand of
France and European multi-national Schneider
Electric will be heard by the end of the
The court ruled that it could not pass
judgement on four of the companies because
they had reached agreements with the US
Department of Justice under which they paid
millions in fines.