Unwelcome publicity for oil giant in legal battle with billionaire

Secret negotiations to settle a multimillion-pound dispute between the Total oil company and London-based businessman Nadhmi Auchi have broken down, The Independent on Sunday has learnt.

Confidential talks between lawyers for both sides have foundered, raising the prospect that highly sensitive details of the operations of Elf, which Total took over in 2000, could be publicly aired in a British court. Lawyers for both sides were unavailable for comment but one authoritative report suggested talks broke down because Auchi was insisting on a public apology.

A legal battle between the two erupted after Auchi, an Iraqi-born British citizen, received a 15-month suspended sentence and a £1.5m fine after being convicted of corruption. French investigators found that he had received $2m (£1m) in illegal commissions in the Elf Aquitaine oil scandal.

Several senior executives of the company were jailed over their part in the affair. The investigators claimed that Auchi had paid bribes to Elf. As a result of the ruling, Total took legal action against him in France.

Auchi, named the UK's 27th richest man, with an estimated £2.1bn fortune, denies any wrongdoing and has appealed against his conviction. He responded to Total's legal action by suing it for £200m at the High Court in London. He claims it has "vicarious liability" for the damage inflicted on his reputation and business interests after he was embroiled in the Elf executives' corruption "against his will".

If the London case proceeds it is certain to add to Auchi's colourful reputation. He fled Iraq to Britain in 1980 after being jailed by Saddam Hussein, who later murdered two of his brothers. His Luxembourg-based General Mediterranean Holding investment company quickly prospered and is now a global operation with interests ranging from luxury hotels through to telecoms and pharmaceuticals.

Auchi was recently named in the US fraud trial of Chicago businessman Antoin Rezko, a friend of US presidential hopeful Barack Obama. Court documents revealed that Rezko lobbied government officials for Auchi to be permitted entry to the US after he was banned following his fraud conviction in France. Auchi denies any connection to Rezko's activities.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Ashdown Group: IT Manager / Development Manager - NW London - £58k + 15% bonus

£50000 - £667000 per annum + excellent benefits : Ashdown Group: IT Manager / ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant / Telemarketer - OTE £20,000

£13000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Scotland's leading life insuran...

Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manager - City, London

£40000 - £45000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Training Programme Manag...

Day In a Page

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own - Michael Calvin

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Timeless drama of Championship race in league of its own
Where the spooks get their coffee fix: The busiest Starbucks in the US is also the most secretive

The secret CIA Starbucks

The coffee shop is deep inside the agency's forested Virginia compound
Revealed: How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Loch Ness Monster 'sighting'

How the Establishment closed ranks over fallout from Nessie 'sighting'

The Natural History Museum's chief scientist was dismissed for declaring he had found the monster
One million Britons using food banks, according to Trussell Trust

One million Britons using food banks

Huge surge in number of families dependent on emergency food aid
Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths 2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

2,500 years of history in 3,000 amazing objects

Excavation at Italian cafe to fix rising damp unearths trove
The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey, 25 years on

The Hubble Space Telescope's amazing journey 25 years on

The space telescope was seen as a costly flop on its first release
Did Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

Did Lord Ashcroft quit the House of Lords to become a non-dom?

A document seen by The Independent shows that a week after he resigned from the Lords he sold 350,000 shares in an American company - netting him $11.2m
Apple's ethnic emojis are being used to make racist comments on social media

Ethnic emojis used in racist comments

They were intended to promote harmony, but have achieved the opposite
Sir Kenneth Branagh interview: 'My bones are in the theatre'

Sir Kenneth Branagh: 'My bones are in the theatre'

The actor-turned-director’s new company will stage five plays from October – including works by Shakespeare and John Osborne
The sloth is now the face (and furry body) of three big advertising campaigns

The sloth is the face of three ad campaigns

Priya Elan discovers why slow and sleepy wins the race for brands in need of a new image
How to run a restaurant: As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food

How to run a restaurant

As two newbies discovered, there's more to it than good food
Record Store Day: Remembering an era when buying and selling discs were labours of love

Record Store Day: The vinyl countdown

For Lois Pryce, working in a record shop was a dream job - until the bean counters ruined it
Usher, Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert as part of the Global Poverty Project

Mary J Blige and Will.i.am to give free concert

The concert in Washington is part of the Global Citizen project, which aims to encourage young people to donate to charity
10 best tote bags

Accessorise with a stylish shopper this spring: 10 best tote bags

We find carriers with room for all your essentials (and a bit more)
Paul Scholes column: I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England

Paul Scholes column

I hear Manchester City are closing on Pep Guardiola for next summer – but I'd also love to see Jürgen Klopp managing in England