Officials in Iraq were bribed to overlook effects of leaded petrol on children's health. The former chief executive of a British chemical company faces the prospect of extradition to the US after the firm admitted million-dollar bribes to officials to sell toxic fuel additives to Iraq.
Paul Jennings, until last year chief executive of the Octel chemical works near Ellesmere Port, Merseyside, and his predecessor, Dennis Kerrison, exported tonnes of tetra ethyl lead (TEL), to Iraq. TEL is banned from cars in western countries because of links with brain damage to children. Iraq is believed to be the only country that still adds lead to petrol.
The company recently admitted that, in a deliberate policy to maximise profits, executives from Octel – which since changed its name to Innospec – bribed officials in Iraq and Indonesia with millions of dollars to carry on using TEL, despite its health hazards.
The firm's Lebanese agent, Osama Naaman, was extradited and agreed this week to plead guilty and co-operate with US prosecutors. Although the US department of justice has run much of the case, the Serious Fraud Office is keen to claim jurisdiction.