Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 26 November 2020

Australian arrested over $78m Iraqi corruption probe

What has become known as the Unaoil scandal has also seen court cases and arrests in the UK

A worker wears a protective mask, following an outbreak of coronavirus, north of Basra. Iraq's Ministry of Oil and South Oil Company have been the target of an international investigation involving alleged bribery and contract rigging, with Australian firm Leighton Offshore and British company Petrofac also implicated in the allegations. REUTERS.
A worker wears a protective mask, following an outbreak of coronavirus, north of Basra. Iraq's Ministry of Oil and South Oil Company have been the target of an international investigation involving alleged bribery and contract rigging, with Australian firm Leighton Offshore and British company Petrofac also implicated in the allegations. REUTERS.

Australian police on Wednesday arrested a man in connection with $78 million in bribes used to secure lucrative Iraqi oil contracts linked to an alleged international corruption ring.

Local media named the man as former Leighton Offshore managing director Russell Waugh.

Police claim his company paid bribes through contractors including Unaoil – a Monaco-based firm which last year had two former senior executives plead guilty to being part of a scheme to bribe foreign government officials in several countries including Azerbaijan, Syria and Iraq.

Investigators believe the payments were used to secure contracts to build oil pipelines worth roughly $1.5 billion.

"The key targets of the bribery scheme were Iraqi Oil Ministry officials and government officials within the South Oil Company of Iraq," Australian Federal Police said in a statement announcing the arrest of a 54-year-old in Brisbane.

They said the investigation, which spanned nine years and involved US and UK authorities, was a "painstaking process" of piecing together a worldwide jigsaw of "alleged corruption".

Police also announced they had issued two further arrest warrants for men living overseas.

Updated: November 19, 2020 09:16 AM