Oil Trail reveals Turkey funding Syrian Kurdish rivals

By Amberin Zaman for Al Monitor. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

Oil trail reveals Turkey funding Syrian Kurdish rivals

At the Halifax Security Forum, an annual event attended by high-powered government officials, business titans and assorted other movers and shakers from across the globe, national security adviser Robert O’Brien took the stage with PBS’ Nick Shifrin and let the cat out of the bag.

When the veteran correspondent grilled O’Brien Nov. 23 about President Donald Trump’s decision to keep US troops in northeastern Syria “for the oil,” noting that the Pentagon’s Syrian Kurdish allies were selling it to the Syrian regime in defiance of sanctions, O’Brien responded, “Some of it goes to the regime. Some of it is used locally. Some of it goes to Iraqi Kurdistan. Some of it goes to Turkey.

The key, though, is not where the oil goes but where the revenue goes.” The main thing, he concluded, was to ensure that none of it got to the Islamic State.

Click here to read the full story.

Donate to Iraqi Children Foundation on Giving Tuesday

The children of Iraq are in crisis. An estimated 800,000 were orphaned by the end of the Iraq War.

The invasion by ISIS displaced more than 1.3 million. Thousands work on the streets, in homes, or in businesses.

They are why the Iraqi Children Foundation (ICF) exists: to intervene on their behalf with love and hope.

On Giving Tuesday, 3rd December, all new monthly donors will receive a 100% match on their first donation, and the ICF is competing for a share of $500,000 in matching funds.

Thank you for your ongoing support!

The Future of Iraq’s Oil Is Russian

By Vera Mironova and Mohammed Hussein, for Foreign Policy. Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iraq Business News.

With ongoing protests making other investors nervous, Moscow is charging ahead.

Despite ongoing protests in Baghdad, which have seen the departure of many foreign diplomats for security concerns, Russia has doubled down.

Not only has its embassy stayed open in the recent weeks of turmoil, but its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov (pictured), also paid a visit last month, first touring Baghdad and then Erbil.

His tour did not look like a regular diplomatic mission. There were no official agreements signed; politics, Syria, and terrorism seemed like an afterthought; and diplomats were in the minority during the week’s events.

In fact, the majority of the participants were businesspeople, including representatives of such Russian oil and gas companies as Gazprom Neft, Rosneft, Soyuzneftegaz, and Lukoil.

Also in attendance were representatives of Technopromexport, a Russian company that builds energy facilities, and from Russia’s Federal Service of Military-Technical Cooperation.

Click here to read the full story.

See also:

China, Not Iran, Is the Power to Watch in Iraq

Refineries Blockaded as Protests Continue

By John Lee.

Anti-government protesters reportedly blocked the entrance to the Nassiriya oil refinery on Wednesday.

Sources told Reuters that protesters blocked tankers from entering the refinery, causing fuel shortages across Dhi Qar province.

The refinery has capacity of 30,000 barrels per day (bpd), but has recently been producing only 15,000-20,000 bpd.

Anadolu Agency also reported that protesters have closed the Al-Shanafiyah oil refinery, south of the province of Diwaniya.

The source said that hundreds of protesters prevented oil trucks from entering or exiting the facility.

(Sources: Reuters, Middle East Monitor)

Unaoil Directors Plead Guilty in US

Two brothers have pleaded guilty in the US to facilitating the payment of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in nine countries, including Iraq.

Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and Saman Ahsani, 46, both of United Kingdom (UK), ran the Monaco-based oil and gas consultancy Unaoil.

They are due to be sentenced on 20th April, 2020.

The following announcement was made by the US Department of Justice:

The U.S. Department of Justice said on Wednesday that Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and his 46-year-old brother Saman each pleaded guilty in March to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) on behalf of companies to secure oil and gas contracts.

They will be sentenced on April 20, 2020, the department said.

Steven Hunter, a 50-year-old British resident and former business development director, also pleaded guilty in August to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.

The former CEO and chief operations officer (COO) of a Monaco-based intermediary company have pleaded guilty for their roles in a scheme to corruptly facilitate millions of dollars in bribe payments to officials in multiple countries. These included Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria. The company’s former business development director also pleaded guilty for his role in paying bribes in Libya.

Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas, Assistant Director in Charge Timothy R. Slater of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, Inspector in Charge Adrian Gonzales of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) Houston Division and Special Agent in Charge D. Richard Goss of the IRS-Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Houston Field Office made the announcement.

Cyrus Ahsani, 51, and Saman Ahsani, 46, both of United Kingdom (UK), each pleaded guilty March 25 to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), for conspiring to facilitate bribes on behalf of companies in foreign countries in order to secure oil and gas contracts. UK resident Steven Hunter, 50, former business development director, pleaded guilty Aug. 2, 2018, to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. Cyrus and Saman Ahsani are set for sentencing April 20, 2020, before U.S. District Judge Vanessa Gilmore of the Southern District of Texas. Hunter’s sentencing is scheduled for March 13, 2020, before U.S. District Judge David Hittner.

According to court documents, former U.S. resident and CEO Cyrus Ahsani and former COO Saman Ahsani managed a Monaco-based intermediary company that provided services for multinational companies operating in the energy sector. From approximately 1999 to 2016, the Ahsanis conspired with others, including multiple companies and individuals, to make millions of dollars in bribe payments to government officials in Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria.

Additionally, court documents reflect Cyrus and Saman Ahsani laundered the proceeds of their bribery scheme in order to promote and conceal the schemes and to cause the destruction of evidence in order to obstruct investigations in the United States and elsewhere. Hunter participated in the conspiracy to violate the FCPA by, among other things, facilitating bribe payments to Libyan officials between about 2009 and 2015.

The FBI, IRS-Criminal Investigation and U.S. Postal Inspection Service conducted the investigation. Trial Attorneys Dennis R. Kihm, Gerald M. Moody Jr., Jonathan P. Robell and Gwendolyn A. Stamper of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance in this matter.

The governments of Australia, Canada, France, Guernsey, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and UK provided significant assistance in this matter as did the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and Eurojust.

The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.

(Sources: US Dept of Justice, Reuters)

UNHCR Iraq Protection Update

Highlights

▪ 11,292 refugees crossed into Iraq since the commencement of hostilities.

▪ The number of refugees entering the KR-I continues to increase. On average, over 1,200 new arrivals were recorded on a daily basis during the past seven days.

▪ Bardarash Camp has reached its capacity, new arrivals will now be hosted in Gawilan camp

▪ The Special Representative of the United Nations Secretary-General for Iraq, Ms. Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert, visited Bardarash camp on Wednesday 23 October 2019.

▪ Over 400 individuals have been cleared to leave Bardarash Camp for family reunification in towns and communities in KRI.

▪ Kurdistan Region of Iraq authorities confirmed that all informal borders will remain open for Syrians to seek safety

Key figures

Estimated planning figures for potential refugee influx from North East Syria 50,000 individuals in six months

10,699 individuals hosted in Bardarash camp as of 25 October 2019

Existing Population of Concern in Iraq

270,844 Refugees and Asylum-Seekers (as of 30 September 2019)

229,285 Syrian refugees (as of 30 September)

1,55 million Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) (as of 31 August 2019)

4,35 million Returnees (as of 31 August 2019)

Contingency stock CRIs and tents for 10,000 families in country

Population movement

As of 25 October 2019, 11,292 refugees have crossed through informal crossing points since 14 October. Most of the refugees arriving are from northern Syria – Sare Kani village, Qamishly city, Hassaka governorate, Gre Spe village, Darbasiya village, Til Tamir village, Derike village and Amoda village.

A total of 10,699 refugees are now hosted in Bardarash camp, and 180 refugees are hosted in Domiz I camp. 413 refugees have left Bardarash Camp, after security clearance by Assayesh and registration with UNHCR, either for family reunification or because they have been identified as extremely vulnerable individuals. UNHCR has been informed that from today, 26 October, family reunification will only be possible for those who have family ties in Duhok governorate.

Board of Relief and Humanitarian Affairs (BRHA) agreed with UNHCR and other humanitarian actors that from 26 October new arrivals will be accommodated in Gawilan Camp, which is 30 km further south of Bardarash camp. New tents have been pitched and the new sector in Gawilan can accommodate up to 1,588 families. Gawilan camp was established in September 2013 and currently accommodates 8,115 Syrian refugees. New arrivals will be able to access existing services. In the event that Gawilan Camp reaches its full capacity as well, new arrivals will be accommodated in Garmawa IDP Camp.

Discussions are ongoing regarding the IDP population currently living in Garmawa camp.
KRI Authorities confirmed that all informal entry points will remain open for Syrian refugees (including Al Walid), however, people entering through these crossing points will be directly transferred by Assayesh to Sahela transit site. Al Walid transit site will no longer host refugees overnight.

UNHCR in collaboration with the BRHA, UNICEF and Assayesh identified a new transit site near Sahela crossing point. The new site (Sahela 2) is located before the main Assayesh check point and allows easier access for humanitarian agencies. Since Syrian refugees arrive during the night and will be transported from all five crossing points to Sahela, they will overnight at the Sahela transit site where they go through initial security screening before being transported to camps.
UNHCR is currently installing three additional rubb halls in Sahela, in addition to the existing rubb hall, two prefab offices, and the covered hall in order to accommodate the large number of people who will be spending the night there. After the current installations are finalized, Sahela 1 and 2 transit sites will have the capacity to host between up to 2,500 individuals per night.

Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and MedAir are providing primary health services at Sahela crossing point during the day while Samaritan’s Purse covers the night shift. Directorate General of Health (DOH) continues to provide vaccinations.

(Source: ReliefWeb)

TechnipFMC settles Iraq Bribery Case

By John Lee.

Oil and gas company TechnipFMC has agreed to pay more than $5 million to settle an Iraq-related corruption case with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC).

The company is alleged to have taken part in bribery between 2008 and 2013 to secure business from Iraqi state-owned oil companies.

Just last month, the company announced that it would demerge its operations into two separate companies.

The full statement from the SEC can be read here.

(Source: SEC)

Commission of Integrity returns $135m to Oil Ministry

Iraq’s Commission of Integrity yesterday announced that it had returned $135 million of misappropriated funds to the oil ministry, the Anadolu Agency reported.

The commission said that the company for the distribution of oil products misappropriated funds through contracts with two oil investment companies.

Iraq is among the world’s most corrupt states according to Transparency International’s corruption index.

The commission revealed in 2018 that it had issued more than 2,000 arrest warrants in 2017 related to corruption in the country.

It said that 290 arrested warrants were issued against state officials including ministers.

(Source: Middle East Monitor)

Iraq “has No Ties to Oil Tanker Seized by Iran”

Iraq’s oil ministry said on Sunday it has no connection with an oil tanker seized by Iran’s IRGC in the Persian Gulf for smuggling fuel, a report said.

“The ministry does not export diesel to the international market,” the Arab country’s oil ministry said in a statement, Iraqi News Agency reported.

Iraq’s relevant authorities are working to gather information about the seized vessel, it added.

Two Iraqi port officials said initial information obtained show that the seized ship is owned by a private shipping company which is owned by an Iraqi private trader.

In a statement on Sunday, the IRGC Navy’s Public Relations Department said that the foreign ship had been captured by the military vessels patrolling the second naval zone in the Persian Gulf as part of the operations to detect and fight against organized smuggling.

The IRGC Navy’s patrol vessels confiscated the foreign tanker that was carrying 700,000 liters of smuggled fuel in a surprise operation after coordination with judicial authorities, it added.

According to the statement, the foreign ship was seized near Farsi Island, a tiny, barren island in the Persian Gulf.

(Source: Tasnim, under Creative Commons licence)

Iran Reassures Iraq over Strait of Hormuz

By John Lee.

Iran has reportedly reassured Iraq that there will be freedom of international maritime navigation in the Strait of Hormuz.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (pictured) gave the reassurances to an Iraqi delegation visiting Tehran.

(Source: Reuters)