Total CEO, ex-interior minister amongst defendants
Charges include corruption, influence-peddling
The head of French oil giant Total and a former cabinet minister appeared in court on Tuesday (15th January, 2013) on charges related to corruption in the United Nations oil-for-food program in Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.
Total, Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie, Swiss oil dealing company Vitol and ex-interior minister Charles Pasqua, as well as 16 other individuals, face a variety of charges from corruption to influence peddling or complicity.
The oil-for-food program operated in Iraq between 1996 and 2003 and was meant to lessen the suffering of the Iraqi people by allowing the country for selling some of its oil, in spite of the ban imposed after the first Gulf War.
The program gave increase to graft on a worldwide scale, amounting to billions of dollars, this was stated according to a U.N. report.
An investing magistrate from France made decision for sending Total, Pasqua, Margerie and the other defendants to court against the advice of the French public prosecutor’s office, which answers to the justice ministry.
The opening day of the trial was controlled by procedural matters with defense lawyers submitting questions about the constitutionality of the charges. For instance, Olivier Metzner, who is the lawyer of Vitol, said his client had already convicted over oil-for-food offences in a court of New York.
The court will rule on Tuesday as to whether these questions will be referred to the French court of cassation – which could delay the trial – or whether cross-test will start.
Total faces charges of bribery, complicity and profiting from influence peddling, all of which it has denied.
Margerie is blamed of complicity in the misuse of corporate assets and risks up to five years in jail and a fine of 275,000 Euros ($499,300). He also said that he will not make any comment and Total said on Monday that he would not have any word with the media during the whole time of the trial.
Pasqua has been in denial about the charges ($ 1 = 0.7510 euros).