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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.

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.