UK Businessman Jailed for Iraq Bribery

British businessman Mark Jessop has admitted breaking United Nations sanctions during the Oil For Food Programme by making illegal payments to Saddam Hussein’s government.  He has been sentenced today at Southwark Crown Court to 24 weeks’ imprisonment and ordered to pay compensation and costs.

Background

Mark Rodney Jessop, aged 53, sold medical goods to the Iraqi market, initially as an employee of a British surgical instruments company but later through his own companies when in 1987 he set up JJ Bureau Ltd and Opthalmedex Ltd, of which he was sole director.  These became the principal vehicles for his business activity in Iraq, though he also acted as an agent for other suppliers, negotiating contracts on their behalf.

Contracts for medical goods were awarded by the Iraqi government (in this case the State Company for Marketing Drugs and Medical Appliances, known as Kimadia).  Between 1996 and 2003 Jessop entered into 54 contracts, making him the most active supplier of medical goods in contract numbers.  The face value of these contracts amounted to US $12.3 million.

The backdrop to his illegal actions was the Oil For Food Programme.  Iraq was suffering hardship because of trade sanctions imposed by the world community following its invasion of Kuwait.  To alleviate the effect sanctions were having on the people of Iraq, the UN Security Council allowed Iraq to export its oil in order to pay for the importation of humanitarian goods.  The Oil For Food Programme, which commenced in December 1996, was a UN monitored scheme whereby oil revenue was not made directly available to the Iraqi government but managed through a UN escrow account and used to pay for the supply of humanitarian goods.  This included medical products.

Kimadia negotiated with suppliers and awarded contracts for such goods. However, in the UK, a supplier would then need British government approval to proceed by applying for an export licence through the Sanctions Control Licensing Unit of the Department of Trade & Industry. (Similar arrangements applied in other countries). If there were no objections the application would then be referred for ultimate approval to a UN committee in New York responsible for overseeing sanctions.  That committee’s approval would enable the DTI to grant the supplier an export licence.

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