Page last updated at 18:01 GMT, Tuesday, 6 April 2010 19:01 UK

Total faces Iraq bribery investigation

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Total faces an investigation over its role in the oil-for-food programme

French oil company Total is to be investigated over allegations of corruption relating to Iraq's oil-for-food programme.

A French judge has filed preliminary charges accusing Total of bribing Iraqi officials while Saddam Hussein was in power in order to secure oil supplies.

This marks the first time the company itself will be investigated.

Total reacted with surprise to the news. It insists it abided by the rules of the UN-sponsored programme.

Filing preliminary charges against the company will give French officials more time to continue their investigation.


Bribery network

The oil-for-food programme was established by the United Nations to allow Iraq to sell small amounts of oil while still under a trade embargo, which had been imposed after the 1991 Gulf war that evicted Saddam Hussein's troops from Kuwait.

In exchange, Iraq received humanitarian aid. But it has since been established that the Iraqi government benefited financially from the scheme, receiving bribes in exchange for securing oil contracts.

The programme was wound up in November 2003, after the US-led coalition had ousted Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq.

In 2005, a UN report indicated that about 2,000 companies were involved in illegally bribing Saddam Hussein's officials using the programme.

Total executives have previously been placed under investigation relating to the programme, but no charges were brought.

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