A French magistrate has decided to send giant Frence oil company Total and its chief executive to trial on charges that the company engaged in corruption during the United Nations oil-for-food program in Saddam Hussein's Iraq, according to Reuters.
The magistrate is sending the company to trial on charges of corruption and involvement in fraudulent activity, while he is sending Total Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie to court too on charges of complicity.
The Financial Times quotes a Total spokesperson as saying that the company was “confident about the outcome of any trial and that we will be cleared of any allegations”. Total has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing during the long-running investigation into the oil-for-food affair.
The oil-for-food program operated in Iraq between 1996 and 2003 and was meant to ease the suffering of Iraqi people by allowing the country to sell some of its oil, despite the embargo imposed after the first Gulf War.
According to a U.N. report, it gave rise to corruption on an international scale, worth billions of dollars. Total says it had no knowledge of payments at the heart of the affair.
Against the advice of the French public prosecutor's office, which answers to the justice ministry, investigating magistrate Serge Tournaire decided to send the company, its CEO and 18 others including former conservative interior minister Charles Pasqua to court.
The trial, which would involve months of hearings, is set to take place in 2012, the judicial source said.
(Sources: Reuters, Financial Times)