The head of French oil giant Total, Christophe de Margerie, has again been questioned by investigators in Paris looking into corruption in the oil industry. De Margerie headed Total’s Middle East operations from in the late 1990s before becoming chief executive last month.
The company’s finance director and the head of its gas-electric division were also interviewed. The investigation by French judges covers alleged illegal payments to secure development rights for an Iranian gas field in 1997, the Iraq UN oil-for-food programme and possible bribery of officials in Cameroon, West Africa.
De Margerie was also held for questioning for 48 hours last October, specifically about Iraq oil sales. This all follows the discovery by Swiss authorities of around 60 million euros in the bank accounts of an Iranian-born Swiss national who was being investigated for suspected money laundering.
Total said it is confident the investigation will establish that there has been no illegal activity. The company has recently suffered falling profits from lower oil and gas output and rising exploration costs to replace its reserves. It is also in the midst of a criminal trial in Paris over its possible role in France’s worst oil spill, the 1999 sinking of the tanker Erika.