UK fraud agency closes KBR inquiry

Serious Fraud Office found insufficient evidence after four-year investigation

Abu Dhabi - February 26, 2009:  The KBR Display during the International Defence Exhibition and Conference 2009 (IDEX) at the Abu Dhabi National Exhibition Centre. ( Philip Cheung / The National ) *** Local Caption ***  PC0201-IDEX.jpgPC0201-IDEX.jpg
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UK investigators closed a four-year inquiry into suspected bribery and corruption at the UK subsidiaries of US engineering company KBR because of insufficient evidence.

The Serious Fraud Office opened the inquiry in 2017 as part of an investigation linked to the Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil, whose senior executives were convicted of bribery over contracts awarded in post-Saddam Hussein Iraq.

The closure of the inquiry came after defeat in the UK courts for the white-collar crime agency over its efforts to compel KBR to hand over documents held outside the UK. The SFO said the ruling had no bearing on its decision to close the case.

KBR, which employs 28,000 people in 40 countries, said it was “pleased and supportive” of the decision, which followed similar announcements by regulators in the US.

Four people were convicted in the UK of bribery to secure contracts worth $1.7 billion for Unaoil and western companies.

Unaoil used its contacts in Iraq to act as a middleman and broker deals for foreign companies.

A series of criminal cases in the UK and US heard allegations that the company paid off officials in the Middle East, Africa and Central Asia to secure an unfair advantage.

Unaoil's former chief executive and its chief operating officer, brothers Cyrus and Saman Ahsani, in 2019 pleaded guilty in the US to being part of a 17-year scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes. They await sentencing.