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France's Total fined 750,000 euros over Iraq 'oil for food' graft

[PARIS] French oil giant total was ordered on appeal friday to pay 750,000 euros (US$827,000) for corruption linked to the un "oil-for-food" programme established for Iraq during Saddam Hussein's rule.

The Swiss-based Dutch oil group Vitol was fined 300,000 euros.

They were among more than a dozen individuals and companies who were cleared of corruption in 2013 after an eight-year investigation.

They had been accused of siphoning cash from the US$64 billion UN programme that allowed Iraq, then under crippling international sanctions, to sell limited quantities of oil to buy humanitarian supplies between 1996 and 2003.

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The fine slapped on Total on Friday was the maximum possible at the time of the wrongdoing.

Saddam forced foreign companies involved in the programme to pay a 10 percent surcharge - accounted for as "transport costs" or "after-sales service" - which in reality went to the regime's coffers.

A UN inquiry led by former US Federal Reserve chairman Paul Volcker alleged in 2005 that the 2,200 companies involved in the programme had paid a total of US$1.8 billion in kickbacks to win supply deals. Of those, 180 were French.