As reported yesterday, the Court of Appeal has overturned the conviction of a third man, Stephen Whiteley, Unaoil’s former territory manager for Iraq, prosecuted by the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) in relation to alleged wrongdoings by Unaoil.

The SFO first opened an investigation into the activities of Unaoil in July 2016, including Stephen Whitely, Ziad Akle and Paul Bond. They were alleged to have paid bribes to influence the terms and allocation of contracts to the advantage of Unaoil and its clients. 

All three men were convicted between 2020 and 2021. Stephen Whiteley was convicted of paying bribes of $500,000 to Iraqi officials in order to win a $55 million contract for his Monaco-based employer Unaoil to supply oil infrastructure. In November 2021 he was ordered to repay criminal gains of almost £100,000.

On 10 December 2021, the Court of Appeal concluded that the SFO’s failure to disclose vital evidence had unfairly led to Ziad Akle being convicted and jailed for bribery. On 24 March 2022, the Court of Appeal overturned the conviction of a second man, Paul Bond. We previously reported on the decisions handed down by the Court, overturning the convictions of Ziad Akle and Paul Bond.

Following the quashing of those convictions, on 6 June 2022, Stephen Whiteley submitted an appeal, on the basis that the Court of Appeal’s findings also rendered his conviction unsafe. The SFO did not contest it.

The Court of Appeal’s decision is another damaging blow for the beleaguered SFO, with the findings of the independent review into their handling of the Unaoil case also published yesterday and which Ince Partner, Colette Kelly, wrote about here.

Yesterday's ruling, alongside the findings of the independent review, further damages public confidence in the SFO’s ability to investigate bribery and corruption cases, piling more pressure on the Director of the SFO, Lisa Osofsky.