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 Former Oil Co. Execs Found Guilty of Fraud, Money Laundering in UK

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PostSubject: Former Oil Co. Execs Found Guilty of Fraud, Money Laundering in UK   Wed Oct 24, 2018 2:40 pm

Two former executives of oil and gas company Afren PLC were guilty of fraud and money laundering that involved personal gains of more than $17 million for the pair, a jury found on Wednesday.

Osman Shahenshah, Afren’s former chief executive, and Shahid Ullah, the company’s former chief operating officer, had a side deal with a business partner in Nigeria that allowed them to extract payments of about $45 million, the U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office said in a statement.

“Instead of acting in their company’s best interests, they used Afren like a personal bank account to fund an illicit deal, with no regard for the consequences,” Lisa Osofsky, the SFO’s director, said in the statement.

Afren, an African-focused exploration and production company, was a constituent of the FTSE 250 group of companies and reported $1.6 billion in revenue in 2013.

The company entered administration in July 2015 after its financial standing was rocked by flagging oil prices, impairment charges relating to reserves in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, and the disclosure in 2014 of the receipt of unauthorized payments by some of its executives and directors.

Stephen Gentle, of Simons and Simons LLC, is representing Mr. Shahenshah, and wasn’t immediately available to comment. David Grant of Locke Lord LLC is representing Mr. Ullah, and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mr. Shahenshah was a member of the board at Afren and various affiliates of the company from 2004, when Afren was founded, according to regulatory filings. He left the CEO role in late 2014. Mr. Ullah was appointed to Afren’s board in 2008 and resigned in October of 2014.

Messrs. Shahenshah and Ullah recommended to Afren’s board a $300 million transaction with Oriental Energy Resources Ltd., the company’s oil field partner in Nigeria, the SFO said.

The board was unaware that the pair had a deal with Oriental under which they would receive 15% of the transaction’s total value. The money was paid to a shell company controlled by the defendants. The prosecutor said they bought houses in Mustique and the British Virgin Islands with the proceeds of the fraud.

The SFO launched an investigation into Afren’s executives in June 2015, after the company disclosed a report of an internal investigation that uncovered suspicious transactions.

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