Qaddafi-era figure ordered to pay $1.5 million in bribery case

Mohamed Ghanem found 'guilty of passive bribery of foreign public officials'

Libyan Oil Minister and chairman of Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) Shukri Ghanem talks t oreporters as he arrives in Vienna on March 12, 2009. The Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) will decide at a meeting on March 15 between slashing oil output again and agreeing to comply with cuts announced at the end of last year in a bid to combat falling crude prices, analysts said OPEC, whose members pump 40 percent of the world's oil supplies, agreed in late 2008 to remove a massive 4.2 million barrels of daily output from the market as its 12 members seek to reverse crumbling prices. AFP PHOTO/DIETER NAGL *** Local Caption ***  Par2456066.jpg

A Swiss court on Friday ordered the son of former Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi's oil minister to pay $1.5 million in a corruption case, a decision his lawyer said he may appeal.

The court hearing involving Mohamed Ghanem, the chief executive of a Bahrain-based Islamic investment bank and the son of Shokri Ghanem who drowned in mysterious circumstances in 2012, was a rare international case brought against a member of the Gaddafi-era elite.

The Federal Criminal Court found Ghanem "guilty of passive bribery of foreign public officials" without giving further details.

The plaintiff in the case, Libya's National Oil Corporation, was seeking $1.5 million in compensation but the court dismissed its claim and instead ordered Ghanem pay that amount to the Swiss government. However, he was told to pay the NOC's expenses, estimated at 50,000 Swiss francs ($54,181).

Ghanem had denied the charges and his lawyer disputed the verdict.

"For me it is a judgment based on mistaken findings. And I consider this verdict to be unjust since there is no incident of corruption," Ghanem's lawyer Jean-Marc Carnice said.

He said he would discuss the decision with his client and consider an appeal. Ghanem, 44, is living in Bahrain where he heads the First Energy Bank.

A lawyer for the NOC did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A spokeswoman for the Attorney General's office said she was "satisfied" with the decision and that such convictions were rare.

Norwegian prosecutors in 2012 accused former executives of Norway-based fertiliser maker Yara of paying bribes to officials in India and Libya, including to the family of Shokri Ghanem. A source familiar with the Swiss case said an alleged payment from Yara into Ghanem's Swiss bank account was involved.

Yara acknowledged paying unspecified bribes in 2014 and agreed to pay a fine. In 2016, a Norwegian appeals court upheld a guilty verdict against the company's chief legal officer but acquitted three former executives of bribery. A Yara spokeswoman said the court case was closed and declined to comment further.

Updated: July 2nd 2021, 5:09 PM