Former Leighton executive charged in Sydney over global Unaoil bribery scandal
12 Jan 2021

Former Leighton Holdings executive David Savage has been charged over his alleged role in the international Unaoil scandal, which involved bribery of senior officials in oil-producing nations to secure lucrative contracts.

Mr Savage, the former chief operating officer of the prominent Australian infrastructure firm, was arrested by Australian Federal Police officers upon his release from hotel quarantine in Sydney’s CBD on Monday morning. He was granted bail at Sydney Central Local Court in the afternoon.

The prosecution of Mr Savage, 60, is a major development in Australia’s longest-running bribery investigation, focused on Leighton’s bribery of Iraqi officials in order to win oil pipeline construction contracts.

The investigation has discovered approximately $US77.6 million in suspicious payments channelled through Monaco-based consultancy Unaoil and other third parties.

Mr Savage has been charged with two counts of knowingly providing misleading information contrary to Australian corporations law.

Police allege he helped conceal and alter company documents that threatened to reveal Leighton’s corruption.

The investigation was launched in 2011 following a report from Leighton about alleged improper payments by Leighton Offshore, registered in Singapore, regarding two contracts with Iraq Crude Oil Export over 2010 and 2011, worth about $US1.46 billion in total.

The contracts were for the construction of offshore oil pipelines that would increase Iraq’s crude oil exporting capacity.

According to the AFP, the key targets of the bribery scheme were Iraqi Ministry of Oil officials and government officials within the South Oil Company of Iraq.

Mr Savage was taken to Sydney Police Centre in Surry Hills on Monday before being granted bail. Under the bail conditions, he must keep the AFP updated on his living arrangements, travel plans and contact details.

He is the second Australian executive charged in connection with the Unaoil conspiracy, which has already led to the jailing or guilty pleas of executives in Europe and the US.

Mr Savage’s former subordinate, Russell Waugh, allegedly masterminded the plot to secure the contracts. He was arrested in November.

Documents filed in the case against Mr Waugh detail suspicious emails between him and Mr Savage.

By Fergus Hunter and Nick McKenzie, The Sydney Morning Herald, 11 January 2021

Read more at The Sydney Morning Herald

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