Ex-Leighton Holdings executive charged over oil bribery scandal


An executive at of one of Australia’s largest companies has been charged over an international bribery scandal allegedly designed to secure oil contacts worth more than $US1.4 billion ($1.8bn) in the Middle East.

David Savage, once the chief operating officer of infrastructure giant Leighton Holdings, was arrested when he left hotel quarantine in Sydney on Monday morning after he arrived back in the country from France late last month.

The 60-year-old has been charged with two counts of knowingly providing misleading information contrary to the Commonwealth Corporations Act of 2001.

He was granted conditional bail after appearing at Sydney’s Central Local Court on Monday to live at a property in the Canberra suburb of Griffith.

But under his proposed bail conditions, Mr Savage will be allowed to return to his home in Vernantes, France, on March 23.

He is the second former Leighton employee to be charged as part of an Australian Federal Police investigation, Operation Trig, which began in 2011.

The AFP said the investigation was sparked when it received information from Leighton Holdings Limited about alleged payments made by Singapore-registered entity Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd about two contracts with Iraq Crude Oil Export in 2010 and 2011.

“The investigation revealed two contracts for the development and installation of onshore and offshore oil pipelines designed to increase the capacity of Iraq’s crude oil export,” the AFP said in a statement.

“For Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd to be awarded the two contracts – which had a combined value of approximately $US1.46 billion – approvals were required from the Iraqi Oil Ministry and the South Oil Company of Iraq.

“AFP investigators will allege Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd funnelled bribes through entities associated with Iyer-associated companies and Unaoil to guarantee approvals for the Iraq Crude Oil Export contracts.”

Police will allege about $US77.6 million in suspicious payments were made via third parties to Iraqi Oil Ministry officials and government officials within the South Oil Company of Iraq.

Mr Savage’s arrest follows that of Russell Waugh, another of Leighton’s former senior executive, in November last year.

Mr Waugh, 54, was also charged with two foreign bribery offences, engaging in conduct to falsify books linked to the corporation and knowingly providing misleading information contrary to the Corporations Act 2001.

He was released on bail November 18 to appear at a Sydney court last month.

In November, the AFP issued an arrest warrant for a third man, aged 62.

The AFP has not ruled out further arrests or charges, with investigations continuing.

Mr Savage’s matter will return to court for a bail review on January 13.

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