Total faces fresh corruption charges over Iran contracts

November 26, 2014, 10:37 AM UTC
Total CEO Christophe de Margerie Dies in Plane Crash
Christophe de Margerie, chief executive officer of Total SA, pauses before a news conference in Paris, France, on Friday, Feb. 10, 2012. Total SA, Europe's third-largest oil producer, posted a 7 percent increase in profit on higher crude prices and said it would raise output and sell assets this year. Photographer: Fabrice Dimier/Bloomberg *** Local Caption ***
Photograph by Fabrice Dimier—Bloomberg via Getty Images

Oil major Total SA is to face charges of corruption in France in relations to contracts with Iran in the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Financial Times reported Wednesday.

The news is a disappointment to the company, which had hoped to draw a line under the affair after paying $398 million last year to settle similar charges in the U.S. brought by the Department of Justice.

The DoJ had maintained that Total paid around $60 million in bribes between 1995 and 2004 to get contracts for two major Iranian oil and gas projects. After the deal, it had agreed not to prosecute the French group under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The new development comes only a month after Total’s chief executive officer, Christophe de Margerie, was killed as his plane collided with a snowplow on a runway in Moscow.

De Margerie had been head of the group’s Middle East exploration and production unit at Total at the time the bribes were made. He had always insisted that neither he nor the company had broken French law.

There is no suggestion of any connection between de Margerie’s death and the decision by French prosecutors to bring the issue to trial. The FT reported that the judicial inquiry into the case had started in 2006.