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Last Updated: Friday, 15 April, 2005, 13:40 GMT 14:40 UK
Briton denies oil-for-food claims
The Daura refinery on the outskirts of Baghdad, Iraq
John Irving faces up to 62 years jail if guilty of bribing Iraqi officials
A British oil trader accused of paying bribes to Saddam Hussein's regime through the UN's oil-for-food programme has denied any involvement.

The US government is seeking the extradition of John Irving, 50, whom it indicted on Thursday.

But the married father-of-two has said through his solicitor he is "surprised and horrified" by the allegations.

The $60bn (32bn) UN programme allowed Iraq to sell oil to buy civilian goods to ease the impact of UN sanctions.

'Robust defence'

Mr Irving, of Sherborne St John, near Basingstoke, Hampshire, was indicted along with Texas businessman David Chalmers and Ludmil Dionissiev, a Bulgarian citizen and permanent US resident, who were both arrested on Thursday at their homes in Houston, Texas.

The men were charged in connection with a scheme which allowed Mr Chalmers to "participate in the selling of Iraqi oil" through his own company, Bayoil.

In a statement, Mr Irving said he intended to mount a "robust defence" against the claims.

I deny any involvement in any of the matters set out in the indictment
John Irving

All three face up to 62 years in prison and a maximum fine of 530,000 ($1m) if convicted.

They could also be forced to pay back some 53m ($100m) in assets.

In a statement, Mr Irving's solicitor, Andrew Preston, said: "John is a senior oil trader with 25 years' experience in the oil markets. He is currently an employee of Bayoil Supply and Trading Limited, working in the UK.

"He has been an employee of Bayoil since 2001. John is extremely surprised and horrified at the allegations, which he believes to be entirely without foundation."

In a personal statement, Mr Irving said: "I deny any involvement in any of the matters set out in the indictment and I am currently working with my solicitors to mount a robust defence."


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