A French court acquitted 14 companies accused of bribery on Thursday for negotiating contracts as part of the UN oil-for-food program [official website; JURIST news archive] with the Iraqi government under Saddam Hussein [JURIST news archive]. The oil-for-food program allowed the Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, which was under UN sanctions in the wake of the first Gulf War, to sell limited stocks of oil in return for foodstuffs and other humanitarian supplies. In Thursday’s trial, Renault Trucks, Schneider Electric and Legrand, and several other French companies were found not guilty [AP report] of bribery, corruption and misuse of company assets. In a 2013 trial [JURIST report], other French companies, including oil conglomerate Total, also were acquitted.
The oil-for-food program, established in 1996, was extremely controvercial. In February 2013 a judge for the US District Court for the Southern District of New York [official website] dismissed [JURIST report] an Iraqi government lawsuit accusing numerous business entities of conspiring with Hussein to disrupt the program, thereby denying Iraqi citizens access to approximately $10 billion of essential aid. In July 2010 General Electric (GE) [corporate website] agreed to a $23.5 million settlement after the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed a complaint accusing GE of bribing Iraqi officials [JURIST report] to receive contracts under the oil-for-food program. Additionally, oil company Chevron [corporate website] also paid a large settlement [JURIST report] to the SEC concerning misuse of the program, and two Texan oil barons, David Chalmers and Oscar Wyatt Jr. [JURIST reports], were sentenced to prison for their roles in the scandal. In 2005 Grundfos, a Danish company that produces industrial pumps, admitted [JURIST report] that two employees paid kickbacks to authorities in Hussein’s government under the oil-for-food program.