Two former bosses at oil business Afren have been convicted of fraud and money laundering, according to the Serious Fraud Office (SFO).
Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah personally received more than $17 million and laundered $45m by deceiving the Afren board into agreeing a $300m business deal, SFO said in an online statement.
Following a shareholder revolt which objected to their £6.6m and £3.8m salary packages and faced with the possibility of lower remuneration in future, the two hatched a fraudulent scheme to secretly increase their pay, SFO said.
Shahenshah and Ullah created a side deal with one of Afren’s Nigerian oil partners that would allow them to benefit from payments Afren would make.
The men recommended a transaction to the Afren board, who then approved payments of hundreds of millions of dollars without knowing that Shahenshah and Ullah stood to personally benefit.
The transaction was claimed to be necessary to maintain the business partnership, but the fact that Shahenshah and Ullah stood to benefit personally remained hidden.
SFO director Lisa Osofsky said: “Greed motivated this crime. Osman Shahenshah and Shahid Ullah failed in their duties as company directors, abused their positions and lied to their board.
“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.
“Fraud corrodes confidence, undermines trust and damages the reputation of the UK at home and abroad. It is our mission to bring those committing this crime to justice.”
The criminal investigation into the former CEO and COO of the collapsed oil and gas exploration company began in June 2015 following a self-report by the company, with the defendants charged with four offences in September last year.
Sentencing has been scheduled at Southwark Crown Court for Monday 29 October at 10.00am.