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Crown to gather more evidence on ex-Leighton Holdings employees in oil bribery scandal in Tanzania, Iraq

Prosecutors are set to head to London to obtain witness statements to form more evidence as the corruption case of two former Leighton Holdings executives drags on, a court has been told.

Legal counsel for Russell John Waugh and David Savage fought for the pair’s charges to be dismissed in Sydney’s Downing Centre Local Court on Tuesday.

Magistrate Clare Farnan was told the matter had dragged on for almost 18 months, with Mr Waugh first being charged in November 2020.

Mr Savage’s lawyer said the Crown prosecutor had been “misleading” about what was happening with the matter, and that was leading to the lengthy delays.

“It didn’t proceed for 12 months … today the AFP made clear if they (Mr Waugh and Mr Savage) were discharged, they would be charged again tomorrow,” she said.

Mr Savage, 60, was charged with two counts of knowingly providing misleading information contrary to the Commonwealth Corporations Act of 2001 and granted strict conditional bail in court.

AFP Bribery
Camera IconFormer Leighton Holdings senior executive Russell Waugh now faces five charges relating to bribery allegations. NCA NewsWire/Dan Peled Credit: News Corp Australia

A representative from the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions said Australian Federal Police officers would travel to London in May and June to obtain more witness statements, which would be used as part of the brief of evidence.

The Crown said “a large” number of emails had come into evidence.

“(A total of) 150,000 emails which are yet to be reviewed and disclosed, but it doesn’t change the charge certificate because the Crown says there is enough evidence to go to trial,” the Crown said.

Ms Farnan was frustrated with the length of time the matter had been before the court and ordered for the brief to be served by July 26 when the matter will return to court.

Both former Leighton Holdings employees were charged as part of the AFP investigation Operation Trig, which began in 2011.

The AFP said the investigation was sparked when it received information from Leighton Holdings about alleged payments made by Singapore-registered entity Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd about two contracts with Iraq Crude Oil Export in 2010 and 2011.

David Savage has also been arrested over the alleged Iraqi plot. AFP
Camera IconDavid Savage has also been arrested over the alleged Iraqi plot. AFP Credit: NCA NewsWire

“The investigation revealed two contracts for the development and installation of onshore and offshore oil pipelines designed to increase the capacity of Iraq’s crude oil export,” the AFP said in a statement.

“For Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd to be awarded the two contracts – which had a combined value of approximately $US1.46bn – approvals were required from the Iraqi Oil Ministry and the South Oil Company of Iraq.

“AFP investigators will allege Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd funnelled bribes through entities associated with Iyer-associated companies and Unaoil to guarantee approvals for the Iraq Crude Oil Export contracts.”

Police allege about $US77.6m in suspicious payments were made via third parties to Iraqi Oil Ministry officials and government officials within the South Oil Company of Iraq.

The AFP will allege in court that Mr Waugh, the former managing director of Leighton Offshore, masterminded the plots.

The 54-year-old was arrested in Brisbane in November 2020 and charged with four offences, including conspiring to bribe a foreign public official, falsifying company books and knowingly providing misleading information.

Mr Savage was charged with two counts of knowingly providing misleading information.
Camera IconMr Savage was charged with two counts of knowingly providing misleading information. Credit: NCA NewsWire

Almost six months later, he was hit with a fresh foreign bribery charge over a separate alleged plot to win a contract with the Tanzanian Port Authority in 2009 and 2010 through $4m in “suspicious” payments.

The investigation allegedly identified about $US4m ($5.05m) in suspicious payments incorporated into Leighton Offshore subcontracts with third-party contractors.

Mr Waugh was the first of its former employees arrested before the investigation snared Leighton Holding’s former chief operating officer Mr Savage in January 2021 when he left hotel quarantine in Sydney after arriving back from France.

The matter will return to court in July.

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