Businessman pleads guilty to Iraq bribery

Abu Dhabi-based businessman pleads guilty to paying millions of dollars in bribes to Iraqi officials.

Powered by automated translation

ABU DHABI // An Abu Dhabi-based businessman has pleaded guilty to paying millions of dollars in bribes to Iraqi officials and participating in an eight-year conspiracy to defraud the United Nations oil-for-food programme. Ousama Naaman, a 61-year-old Lebanese-Canadian, had lived in the UAE since at least 1995 and operated several businesses here before he was arrested on a trip to Frankfurt, Germany, in July 2009 and extradited to the US. He pleaded guilty to the crimes of violating the country's Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, conspiracy to commit wire fraud and falsifying records in the hearing at the US District Court in Washington, DC, on Friday.

Mr Naaman and his companies were the Iraqi agents of Innospec, a US company. According to Lanny Breuer, the criminal division assistant attorney general, Mr Namaan admitted that from 2001 to 2003, acting on behalf of Innospec, he offered and paid 10 per cent kickbacks to the then Iraqi government in exchange for five contracts under the UN's oil-for-food programme. Mr Naaman negotiated the contracts, including a 10 percent increase in the price to cover the kickback, and routed the funds to Iraqi government accounts in the Middle East. Innospec inflated its prices in contracts approved by the programme to cover the cost of the kickbacks. In March of this year, Innospec pleaded guilty to using Mr Naaman to win contracts with the Iraqi ministry of oil.

He also admitted in court that from 2004 to 2008, he paid and promised to pay more than $3 million in cash bribes, as well as travel, gifts and entertainment, to officials of the Iraqi ministry of oil and the Trade Bank of Iraq in connection with the sale of a chemical additive used in the refining of leaded fuel. @Email:rghazal@thenational.ae