South Korean giants in Libya and Algeria

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As Asian companies expand their global power and influence, the Monaco-based bribe factory Unaoil has been quick to sign them up to its corrupt business model.

A trove of leaked emails from inside Unaoil show it working closely with Malaysia’s national oil company Petronas, as well as South Korean titans Hyundai and Samsung, and even the Chinese government giant Sinopec. The oil industry’s biggest ever scandal has also exposed Asian conglomerates Yokogawa of Japan, South Korea’s ISU, Singapore’s Keppel and Malaysian firm Ranhill.

The emails show some Asian executives are enthusiastic participants in graft, underscoring the pervasive culture of corruption across the region. It’s an alarming proposition as Asian companies develop into some of the most powerful and influential players in global business.

The massive leak of files from Unaoil this week has already sparked investigations by the US Department of Justice, the FBI, Britain’s National Crime Agency and other authorities.

Today, we reveal how Unaoil’s corrupt dealings with its multinational clients has also infected the fast-growing African oil industry.

« You are requested to come to see him as you told me at a hotel… I suggest to you with around 20,000 Eruo [euro] at this visit,”

Thousands of leaked files reveal that managers inside South Korean conglomerates paid millions of dollars in commissions to Unaoil, which funded corruption to win major contracts in Libya and Algeria.

In one email, Korean ISU vice president Joon Lee, writing from a private address, urged Unaoil to bring cash to a meeting to pay a senior Libyan government official who could help ISU win a construction contract.

« You are requested to come to see him as you told me at a hotel… I suggest to you with around 20,000 Eruo [euro] at this visit,” the email to Unaoil said.

At the time, Joon Lee was not only ordering pay-offs, but pocketing his own bribes. He set up his own offshore company, the Monaco based Sun Holder, into which he agreed to receive kickbacks from Unaoil. In return he passed on confidential information he had received and also ensured the company he worked for, ISU, kept paying Unaoil as its agent. Joon Lee could not be contacted.

The leaked files also reveal that a senior Samsung manager, in cahoots with executives from Hyundai and Hanwha, agreed to pay bribes worth millions of dollars to rig oil-refinery contracts in Algeria.

Unaoil engineered the corrupt deals. The two South Korean companies conspired to share the $1.8 billion contracts between them, even though they were apparently competing.

Stuart K. Steele, an executive from a third company, Spanish multinational Tecnicas Reunidas, was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars via offshore accounts. The cash ensured the Spanish company ran dead in the three-way bidding contest: a manoeuvre described in the emails as a “tripartite agreement”.

“I understand your friend [from Tecnicas Reunidas] is not comfortable, if his name is specified in the agreement,” an email to Unaoil from a senior Samsung executive said.

“Your obligation shall be to maintain three commercial bids to be submitted and to have the contract awarded to any bidder from our place [South Korea]”.

Unaoil also sought to bribe officials from Algeria’s state-owned oil company Sonatrach.


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