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French court acquits Total, CEO in Iraq Oil-for-Food case

PARIS -- A French court has acquitted energy giant Total and its chief executive of corruption and embezzlement in a case arising from the United Nations-sponsored oil-for-food program in Iraq.

The Paris court also dismissed corruption charges against the 18 other defendants in the case, including a former minister and a former French ambassador.

Total and its chairman and CEO, Christophe de Margerie, faced accusations of having paid kickbacks to Iraqi civil servants to buy oil in violation of the rules of the oil-for-food program. The program was designed to let Iraq raise money to feed its people from 1996 to 2003 when Saddam Hussein was still in power.

"The trial showed that the charges were groundless," Total lawyer Jean Veil said. Mr. de Margerie and the other defendants have repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in the case.

Paris prosecutors, who had recommended hitting Total with the maximum possible fine of $962,000, have 10 days to decide whether to appeal Monday' s ruling.

The oil-for-food program allowed Iraqi authorities to sell about $65 billion worth of crude oil to buy primary goods and mitigate the impact on the Iraqi population of an international embargo and sanctions in place at the time. The proceeds were also used to pay damages to Kuwait following the Iraqi invasion of the country in 1991.

A 2005 review of the program, conducted by an independent panel headed by former Federal Reserve Chairman Paul Volcker, derided management of the program as corrupt and inefficient. The report found that mismanagement and criminality allowed the Hussein regime to wring $10.2 billion out of the system through a combination of smuggling and illicit kickbacks and surcharges.

Dow Jones Newswires



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