The United States, Australia and the UK are currently investigating what is looking to be one of the biggest international scandals to date. Unaoil, a company based out of the tax haven Monaco, is said to have assisted some of the most well known names in the oil industry to ‘secure’ deals throughout the Middle East, Asia and Africa.
Samsung, weapons manufacturer Halliburton, Rolls Royce, Hyundai and even Australia’s Leighton Holdings are just five of the several companies that have also been implicated in dealings involving bribery and corruption that led to many successfully won contracts around the world. Interestingly, Unaoil is a practically unheard of family run business which, taken from its website, describes itself as, “ [Providing] industrial solutions to the energy sector in the Middle East, Central Asia and Africa.” The front that Unaoil and its chairman and founder Ata Ahsai put up, seems harmless and any unknowing observers wouldn't bother to look twice . Yet the tens of thousands of emails which were leaked by employees of Unaoil say other wise.
It seems that Ata Ahsai has been personally responsible for fixing some of the biggest deals in the history of the oil industry, and in doing so, opened the gates for many western and international companies to the spoils of war after atrocities such as the Iraqi Invasion. In fact Unaoil paid $25 million in bribes in order to win over many of the newly appointed officials within the Iraqi government, before proceeding to allow western oil giants to loot the war torn nation of its precious natural resources. The emails have revealed that billions of dollars of government contracts were awarded based on bribes and corruption.
Many of the implicated companies have claimed or have reason to claim that they were entirely unaware of the dodgy dealings taking place and thought they had hired a legitimate lobbyist to aid in expanding business within the Middle East. This could be entirely possible in some cases, as Unaoil bases its business model on the fact that many foreign companies fear they won't be able to penetrate local markets without the aid of third party assistance. However in many cases the emails revealed that many of the companies were either turning a blind eye or were tacitly approving of the underhanded way in which Unaoil conducted its business.
Some companies in fact went as far as assisting or receiving direct returns on successful, yet corrupt, deals. The overseas divisions of Leighton Holdings overtly stated they would hide such bribery within falsified contracts, while a number of companies including the French drilling giant MI-SWACO received thousands in kickbacks from cases of bribery and grafting. A member of the Rolls Royce senior management was able to secure a large payment for leaking sensitive information.
Ata Ahsai, the chairman of Unaoil, had this to say on the issue, “We are not in the business of fixing jobs for people. Our work is basically very basic. What we do is integrate Western technology with local capability.” Yet, the Huffington Post reporter who has covered the ordeal described both the chairman and the company in a starkly different way, stating that, “They rub shoulders with royalty, party in style, mock anti-corruption agencies and operate a secret network of fixers and middlemen throughout the world’s oil producing nations.”
The release of this leak is interesting timing, as a report was recently released stating investors are now directing more funding to renewable energy projects than to Oil, Coal or Gas. It seems the oil giants don’t have to play by the rules of fair trade in an open market of competition, given companies like Unaoil have been securing their deals exploiting impoverished, war torn nations.
What is so disturbing about this is that a single wealthy family is contributing to the growth and apparently the professional management of corruption within developing and politically unstable countries. Many of the countries that were affected were previously involved in the Arab Spring such as Syria, Libya and Yemen not to mention Iraq. By eroding trust between the people and the ‘governing’ bodies who have been so terribly corrupted, radicalisation and civil unrest spreads dramatically leading to conflict like that seen in Syria today.
Unfortunately, this network of influencers and middlemen have had dealings that expand beyond the middle east into Africa and Asia. Huffington post has not yet released the entirety of their three piece spread on the evolving scandal, yet it was confirmed that Unaoil has had dealings in the UAE that secured Indian conglomerate Larsen and Toubro a contract with the Abu Dhabi National Oil Company. These allegations also come at a time when civil unrest in Iraq has led to mass protest against the corrupt elite. As this story continues to reveal that officials within the current Iraqi government were heavily involved with corruption and bribery, it may be just enough to push the people over the edge. The actions of a corrupt oil industry are directly affecting the lives of people who have lived for the msot part of the last decade in a state of political turmoil.
Unfortunately, our reliance on oil for transportation, materials and electricity has created an inflated trillion dollar industry which will stop at nothing to further expand its outreach in the global market for as long as possible. If only there was an alternative energy source like a fusion reactor in the sky.