Monaco raids Unaoil offices over global oil corruption probe

SYDNEY/MILAN (Reuters) - Authorities in Monaco raided the offices of energy services company Unaoil and the homes of its directors after Britain sought help investigating alleged corruption in the global oil industry.

Monaco’s government said in a statement on its website that it acted after receiving an urgent request for international judicial assistance in criminal matters from Britain’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO). Unaoil directors were questioned by Monaco police on Tuesday and Wednesday, the government said.

Joint reports by Australia’s Fairfax Media and the Huffington Post said that the U.S. Department of Justice and anti-corruption police in Britain and Australia had launched a joint investigation into the activities of Unaoil.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation is investigating the allegations against Unaoil, a source familiar with the matter told Reuters. The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

Monaco-based Unaoil provides industrial solutions to the energy sector in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa, according to its website.

“Due to recent developments it would be inappropriate for the company to comment at this time,” a Unaoil spokesman said in an emailed statement.

The chairman of Unaoil Group, Ata Ahsani, could not be reached for comment.

The media reports, citing hundreds of thousands of emails, also link several multinationals to corrupt practices, including claims of bribery and bid rigging to win oil contracts in countries such as Kazakhstan and Iraq.

Italian oil major Eni ENI.MI, one of the companies mentioned in the report, indicated that it would hold an internal inquiry into the allegations.

“We do not comment on the results of possible internal investigations,” a spokesman for ENI said.

The alleged behaviour of some of its employees was to the detriment of the group and clashed with its code of ethics, the spokesman said.

“None of the people mentioned in the articles are currently employed by Eni,” the spokesman said in an emailed response to Reuters about the report.

The media reports said U.S. construction giant KBR Inc KBR.N, which until 2007 was owned by oilfield services provider Halliburton Co HAL.N, paid Unaoil millions of dollars from 2004 until at least 2009.

KBR said it does not tolerate illegal or unethical practices and is committed to complying with all applicable laws.

“We take any allegations of corruption and unethical business practices seriously,” KBR said in a statement.

Halliburton declined to comment.

A spokesman for Britain’s SFO said it was “aware of the allegations,” but would not comment further.

Agencies in Australia were aware of allegations of the involvement of a number of Australian companies in foreign bribery matters, the Australian Federal Police (AFP) said in a statement emailed to Reuters.

The AFP said it was conducting ongoing investigations into a number of allegations, but declined to comment specifically on the focus of its probes.

WorleyParsons WOR.AX and Primary Health Care PRY.AX, both named in the media reports, denied any relationship with Unaoil.

Australia’s opposition party leader Bill Shorten said he will push for a senate inquiry into global bribery when parliament resumes this month. He said the “revelations” were “deeply disturbing.”

Reporting by Byron Kaye, Jane Wardell and James Regan in Sydney; additional reporting by Julia Harte in Washington, Mica Rosenberg in New York and Terry Wade in Houston,; Rachel Armstrong in London and Stephen Jewkes and Oleg Vukmanovic in Milan; editing by Susan Fenton, G Crosse and Chizu Nomiyama