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Asian companies such as Hyundai, Samsung, Sinopec and Petronas are household names. But they have dark secrets.

In the latest in Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post's global bribery expose, these firms and more are implicated for paying kickbacks, money laundering and corruption.

As Asian companies expand their global power and influence, the Monaco-based bribe factory Unaoil has been quick to sign them up to its corrupt business model.

A trove of leaked emails from inside Unaoil show it working closely with Malaysia's national oil company Petronas, as well as South Korean titans Hyundai and Samsung, and even the Chinese government giant Sinopec.

The oil industry's biggest ever scandal has also exposed Asian conglomerates Yokogawa of Japan, South Korea's ISU, Singapore's Keppel and Malaysian firm Ranhill.

The emails show some Asian executives are enthusiastic participants in graft, underscoring the pervasive culture of corruption across the region.

It's an alarming proposition as Asian companies develop into some of the most powerful and influential players in global business.

The massive leak of files from Unaoil this week has already sparked investigations by the US Department of Justice, the FBI, Britain's National Crime Agency and other authorities.

Below Fairfax Media and The Huffington Post reveal how Unaoil's corrupt dealings with its multinational clients has also infected the fast-growing African oil industry.


Thousands of leaked files reveal that managers inside South Korean conglomerates paid millions of dollars in commissions to Unaoil, which funded corruption to win major contracts in Libya and Algeria.

In one email, Korean ISU vice president Joon Lee, writing from a private address, urged Unaoil to bring cash to a meeting to pay a senior Libyan government official who could help ISU win a construction contract.

  • "You are requested to come to see him as you told me at a hotel… I suggest to you with around 20,000 Eruo [euro] at this visit," the email to Unaoil said.

At the time, Joon Lee was ordering pay-offs and pocketing his own bribes. He set up his own offshore company, the Monaco-based Sun Holder, into which he agreed to receive kickbacks from Unaoil.

In return, he passed on confidential information he had received and also ensured the company he worked for, ISU, kept paying Unaoil as its agent. Joon Lee could not be contacted.

The leaked files also reveal that a senior Samsung manager, in cahoots with executives from Hyundai and Hanwha, agreed to pay bribes worth millions of dollars to rig oil-refinery contracts in Algeria.

Unaoil engineered the corrupt deals. The two South Korean companies conspired to share the $1.8 billion contracts between them, even though they were apparently competing.

Stuart K. Steele, an executive from a third company, Spanish multinational Tecnicas Reunidas, was paid hundreds of thousands of dollars via offshore accounts.

The cash ensured the Spanish company ran dead in the three-way bidding contest: a manoeuvre described in the emails as a "tripartite agreement".

  • "I understand your friend [from Tecnicas Reunidas] is not comfortable if his name is specified in the agreement," an email to Unaoil from a senior Samsung executive said.
  • "Your obligation shall be to maintain three commercial bids to be submitted and to have the contract awarded to any bidder from our place [South Korea]".

Unaoil also sought to bribe officials from Algeria's state-owned oil company Sonatrach.


Oil, for many countries, is by far the biggest game in town. Many struggling oil-producing nations hire international companies to manage their fields, hoping this will deliver the best value for their people.

The Iraqi government was hoping for such a result when it appointed the Malaysian government-owned oil company Petronas to help manage huge oil fields in Iraq's south in 2010.

Then Unaoil stepped in.

Unaoil had a client that wanted to secure a large contract Petronas was overseeing. So Unaoil bribed Petronas executives to rig the contract. Unaoil's client was the British oil services firm Petrofac.

Leaked emails reveal that Unaoil agreed to pay millions of dollars to a Malaysian middle man who claimed he could influence a top Petronas' executive and other Malaysian officials in 2010.

  • "I'll make [an] arrangement for us to see Mr [Petronas executive] when I'm in Dubai," middle man Affandi Yusuf wrote to Unaoil.
  • "As you are aware the situation is very sensitive at the moment. I'll have to meet Mr [Petronas executive] personally to make him comfortable to meet up with your team."

In a later email from Affandi, the middleman claims that, in return for the bribes, his corrupt Petronas contacts had "fed us" inside information from a tender committee.

This ensured that Unaoil's client Petrofac qualified for a large contract.

  • "They have lived up to their obligation to get PF [Petrofac] qualified technically. According to them, PF would have been initially technically disqualified," Affandi wrote in an email in which he demanded money.

Petrofac responded that it did not condone bribery in any of its operations.

And so it went. In Libya, Malaysian company Ranhill offered Unaoil $40 million to convince senior Libyan officials to award it a large housing construction contract. The leaked emails reveal Ranhill approached Unaoil after former Malaysian prime minister Mahathir Mohamad had failed to convince Colonel Gaddafi to help.

Unaoil succeeded where Mahathir had failed. Unaoil paid a high ranking Libyan official, Mustafa Zarti, to assist Ranhill. The leaked files also suggest Unaoil promised a $200,000 personal kickback to a Ranhill executive if he helped Unaoil extract large commissions from the Malaysian company.

Unaoil also paid up to $2 million (along with further payments for a rug and a collection of fine wines) into offshore accounts to two mysterious Algerian middle men, Tewfic Guerbato and Omar Habour. It appears these payments were made to increase Unaoil's influence inside Petronas and other Asian firms.


And then there was China. As Chinese multinationals rapidly evolved into major oil industry players, Unaoil keenly sought their business.

In 2010, Unaoil agreed to become the agent for a subsidiary of the Chinese government-controlled behemoth Sinopec. Under the deal, Unaoil would pocket 5 per cent of the value of any contract it won for the Chinese firm.

"[Wang]doeshavesomeaccesstoSinopec…andsaysthathehasclearaccesstotheDeputyPrimeMinister,theDeputyPresident,and,ifhewants, the ‘Emperor'"

But there was a catch. A senior manager from Sinopec subsidiary ZPEB asked for a personal kickback from Unaoil for signing the consultancy agreement.

The manager "is a player," wrote Unaoil's Steve Hunter to his bosses in Monaco, "and asked initially for 2% to cover all the ZPEB players, then over the 3 days [they] agreed to 1%".

  • "We will have to honour this if we want to go further. From these 3 days it became clear that the Chinese have personal agendas. [The manager] told me [they are paying bribes to] ... ZPEB man. "

The corrupt senior manager is described as having powerful family connections in Sinopec, and "full access" to senior officials – access the manager used to help Western companies.


The corrupt manager "has registered a company in US and is active agent for other Chinese business".

Unaoil's Chinese ventures began in 2003, when the company teamed up with an Asian businessman called [Mr] Wang. Wang promised Unaoil access to China's most influential officials in return for large payments.

  • "[Wang] does have some access to Sinopec … and says that he has clear access to the Deputy Prime Minister, the Deputy President, and, if he wants, the 'Emperor' – i.e. Jang Zei Ming … who is the real power still in China despite giving up the Presidency," wrote Unaoil employee Peter Willimont in an internal briefing.
  • "As our deal stands with him now, it is 50/50 with him taking care of his end and us doing our bit."

Japan and Singapore are considered among the least corrupt – and least corruptible – countries in Asia. But Unaoil's tentacles extend to multinational oil service firms in both countries.

The leaked files reveal that Unaoil was paying bribes in Kazakhstan to help Singaporean conglomerate Keppel win contracts.

A confidential 2007 Unaoil memo details its plans to help Keppel win offshore oil rig and barge contracts on the massive Kashagan oil field. Unaoil regarded Keppel as an ideal client because Keppel had lax anti-corruption controls compared with Unaoil's other multinational clients. Unaoil also believed Keppel had its own connections to allegedly corrupt Kazakh government officials.

  • "In my opinion we have a lot at stake here, apart from the $30m [in fees from Keppel] – we could set-up a long term association with these guys [Keppel].... The problems of working with a US or European outfit do not apply here," a Unaoil executive wrote in a 2007 memo.

The leaked emails provide specific details of just how helpful Unaoil was to Keppel. In 2006, when Keppel was competing with French multinational Technip to win a contract to build an offshore oil rig in Kazakhstan, Unaoil used a corrupt contact codenamed "small D" to leak inside information on bidding strategy. "Small D" appears to be an Italian oil executive working with the Kazakhstan government.

  • "Please ask small D what does [he] understand [about the bid]… currently offered by the French," said one email.
  • "Any news from little D on the outcome of the T [Technip] mtg [meeting]?? -- I need to go back to [Keppel senior manager]," Unaoil's Kazakhstan manager Peter Willimont wrote in yet another message.

In Japan, meanwhile, the Tokyo based electrical engineering and software giant Yokogawa had also hopped into bed with Unaoil.

Leaked emails from 2006 reveal Unaoil paying middlemen to reveal confidential information on the tender strategies of Yokogawa's competitors in the middle east – information that Unaoil then fed to Yokogawa.

  • "I just had the Japs on the phone [looking for information]", a Unaoil manager wrote to a middleman who was leaking them information in 2006.
  • "Y[okogawa] France wants to visit us here next week if we have the info to review," the manager wrote in another email.

Yokogawa responded to questions saying they had never working with Unaoil.


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