Petrofac suspends COO amid serious fraud probe

UK oilfield services company Petrofac has suspended its chief operating officer as a response to an investigation by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) related to a widespread corruption scandal involving Monaco-based Unaoil. 

Petrofac said on Thursday that Marwan Chedid has been suspended until further notice. As a result, he has resigned from the company’s board.

On May 12, 2017, the UK government watchdog SFO confirmed that it is investigating the activities of Petrofac, its subsidiaries, and their officers, employees and agents for suspected bribery, corruption and money laundering. The investigation is related to the SFO’s ongoing investigation into the activities of Unaoil.

Petrofac chief executive Ayman Asfari and COO Marwan Chedid were then arrested, questioned under caution by the SFO, and were released without charge.

Following the launch of investigation, the company’s board on Thursday announced a number of decisions, including forming a committee to be solely responsible for the company’s engagement with the SFO and to oversee the company’s response to the investigation. This committee comprises the chairman, independent non-executive directors and the chief financial officer.

Given the scale of the investigation, the committee has also decided to engage a senior external specialist to oversee the company’s management of and response to the investigation. This person will also review the company’s compliance processes, Petrofac added.


CEO stays


Ayman Asfari will continue in his role as CEO but Petrofac noted that, to ensure full separation of operational duties and the investigation, Asfari would not be involved in any matters connected to the investigation, and would have no role or responsibilities for engaging with or liaising with agents and consultants.

Chairman Rijnhard van Tets said: “These decisions signal the board’s determination to cooperate fully with the SFO and its investigation, whilst ensuring Petrofac continues to deliver for its clients.”

The company stated it has already provided large volumes of information to the SFO which will also have access to other information in the context of its wider investigation.


Independent investigation findings rejected


During 2016, the board of Petrofac commissioned an independent investigation into allegations in the media in relation to Unaoil. The board shared the findings of this investigation with the SFO but the agency has informed Petrofac that it does not accept those findings. The matters that were the subject of the board’s investigation will be part of the SFO’s ongoing investigation into Petrofac.

The SFO has also informed Petrofac that it does not consider the company to have cooperated with it, as that term is used in relevant SFO and sentencing guidelines. It is for the SFO to determine the outcome of its investigation and any prosecutions in due course, the company explained.

Petrofac emphasized it is devoting very significant resources in its current engagement with the SFO.

Earlier, the SFO also opened an investigation into the activities of the U.S. engineering firm KBR’s UK subsidiaries for suspected offences of bribery and corruption related to an ongoing investigation of Unaoil.

When it came to light last year, the oil industry corruption scandal related to Unaoil also involved the Norwegian engineering and construction services company Kvaerner, Halliburton, National Oilwell Varco, Keppel, and Turkish joint venture GATE.

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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