By Emmanuel Jarry
PARIS, Dec 21 (Reuters) - A Paris court fined French oil and gas group Total 500,000 euros ($570,000) on Friday for bribing foreign public officials in a case related to Iranian contracts in 1997.
Total, was charged with paying $30 million under the cover of a consultancy contract to facilitate a deal for the South Pars gas field more than two decades ago, which the Paris prosecutor said covered “corruption payments”.
Court documents said that from around 1995 to 2004, at the request of an Iranian official cited as Medhi Hashemi Rafsanjani, the son of Iran’s former president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, Total and intermediaries made illicit payments to middlemen designated by Medhi to help the company.
Mehdi Hashemi Rafsanjani was not immediately available to comment on Friday.
Total’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Patrick Pouyanne said in a statement after the ruling that the company would no longer pursue the matter because none of the individuals under investigation were still alive.
“Anyone who knew (former Total CEO) Christophe de Margerie knows that he would never be involved in any type of corruption,” Pouyanne said.
“However, given the specific circumstances of this case, which has been already judged in the U.S. and in which none of the individuals can defend themselves, Total doesn’t want to pursue it,” he added.
It is not the first time that Total’s business with Iran has ended in court. In 2013 it agreed to pay $398 million to settle a U.S. criminal and civil allegation that it paid bribes between 1995 and 2004 to win oil and gas contracts.
This was billed as the first coordinated action by French and U.S. law enforcement in a major foreign bribery case and at the time the Paris prosecutor recommended Total and its then CEO de Margerie face trial in France.
De Margerie died in 2014 in a plane crash. ($1 = 0.8767 euros) (Reporting by Emmanuel Jarry and Bate Felix, writing by Dominique Vidalon; Editing by Leigh Thomas and Alexander Smith)