Statoil compliance ends US bribery charges

The US Department of Justice dismissed bribery charges against Statoil ASA after the company satisfied conditions under a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) for 3 years.

Nov 24th, 2009

Nick Snow
OGJ Washington Editor

WASHINGTON, DC, Nov. 24 -- The US Department of Justice dismissed bribery charges against Statoil ASA after the company satisfied conditions under a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) for 3 years.

The charges appeared in a DOJ criminal information filed on Oct. 13, 2006, focusing on Statoil’s efforts to secure a contract in Iran for a phase of development of offshore South Pars gas field.

According to DOJ, Statoil began negotiating with an Iranian government official in 2001 who the company believed could influence the awarding of oil and gas contracts. It then entered into a “consulting contract” with an offshore intermediary company, Horton Investments Ltd., in 2002 calling for payments of more than $15 million over 11 years to induce the Iranian official to use his influence to help Statoil with the South Pars contract and to open doors to future oil and gas projects in Iran.

Two payments totaling more than $5 million were made by wire transfer, and Statoil was awarded a South Pars development contract, DOJ said. The criminal information charged that Statoil, shares of which are traded on the New York Stock Exchange, violated the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by making the payments and also committed securities fraud by falsifying its books and records in characterizing the payments as “consulting fees.”

DOJ said that, according to the DPA, Statoil acknowledged making the payments, agreed to pay a $10.5 million fine, and agreed to the appointment of an independent compliance consultant for 3 years to review and periodically report on its compliance with the agreement and to comprehensively review its FCPA compliance controls, policies, and procedures. The criminal information was to remain pending under the agreement until it was either dismissed or prosecuted to give Statoil a chance to demonstrate its good conduct.

DOJ said it received the compliance consultant’s final report and determined that Statoil complied with all of its obligations under the DPA, including adopting the consultant’s compliance-related recommendations. Accordingly, it filed a motion with the federal court in Manhattan on Nov. 18 to dismiss with prejudice the criminal information against Statoil. US District Judge Richard J. Holwell granted the motion and dismissed the charges.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

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