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Brisbane man arrested following AFP’s nine-year foreign bribery investigation involving Iraqi Oil Ministry

A Brisbane man has been arrested and two other men are wanted over an alleged $1 billion international corruption investigation involving Iraqi officials.

The Australian Federal Police (AFP) said the arrest was the result of a nine-year international investigation involving UK and US authorities looking into bribes that allegedly targeted officials from the Iraqi Oil Ministry and an Iraqi company.

The AFP said it was tipped off by Australian company Leighton Holdings in 2011 about irregular payments made by a Singapore-based company, Leighton Offshore Pty Ltd.

The tip-off triggered police to establish a dedicated investigation code-named Operation Trig.

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AFP officers seized more than 2 million documents, obtained evidence from 10 countries and helped foreign law enforcement agencies secure convictions on bribery charges.

Russell Waugh, 54, the former managing director of Leighton Offshore, was arrested at his Annerley home on Wednesday morning and charged with two foreign bribery charges.

Police have issued arrest warrants for two other men living overseas.

Mr Waugh was also charged under the Corporations Act with allegedly falsifying books and knowingly providing misleading information.

Appearing in the Brisbane Magistrates Court, the former Queensland senior construction executive was released on bail and will be extradited to New South Wales.

Commonwealth prosecutors were granted an extradition order for Mr Waugh to have the charges moved to a Sydney court.

Mr Waugh, who appeared via video link and was not represented by a lawyer, agreed to the order as well as nine bail conditions.

The former executive was ordered to report to police three times a week, surrender his passport, and have no contact with more than 45 witnesses.

He must also own only one mobile phone and was ordered to provide the AFP with the related numbers and passwords.

A ‘painstaking’ bribery investigation

The AFP will allege Leighton Offshore funnelled bribes to secure approvals for two Iraq Crude Oil Export contracts — worth a combined $US1.46 billion ($2 billion).

The contracts were for the development and installation of onshore and offshore oil pipelines designed to increase the capacity of Iraq’s crude oil export.

Police allege $US77.6 million ($105 million) worth of suspicious payments were made via third party contractors, which targeted the South Oil Company of Iraq and the Iraqi Ministry of Oil, which were responsible for approvals.

In a statement, the AFP Deputy Commissioner Ian McCartney said Operation Trig investigators had demonstrated outstanding resilience over the past nine years.

“Their determination to ensure acts of alleged corruption are held to account is a testament to the dedication, skill and tenacious approach of AFP members, and the strength of our partnerships worldwide.”

The AFP said it had not ruled out further arrests or charges.

Mr Waugh is expected to appear in New South Wales’ Central Local Court next month.

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