Conviction of former Unaoil executive quashed in sharp blow to UK's SFO

LONDON, Dec 10 (Reuters) - London’s Court of Appeal has quashed the bribery conviction of Ziad Akle, a former manager of Monaco-based consultancy Unaoil, describing the Serious Fraud Office’s (SFO) refusal to provide the defence with relevant documents as a “serious failure”.

“That failure was particularly regrettable given that some of the documents had a clear potential to embarrass the SFO in their prosecution of this case,” senior judges said in their judgment, made public on Friday.

Akle, 46, a former Iraq territory manager for Unaoil, was jailed for five years in 2020 for conspiracy to bribe an Iraqi official to win a $55 million oil deal after the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. But he accused the SFO, which prosecuted the case, of grave missteps in the trial.

The Court of Appeal declined to order a retrial but said they were not suggesting that any individual SFO officials “had deliberately sought to cover anything up”.

Reporting by Kirstin Ridley Editing by David Goodman