France's Total pays U.S. $398 million to settle Iran case


French oil company Total has agreed to pay $398 million to settle criminal and civil charges brought by the U.S. government over alleged payments of bribes to Iranian officials in exchange for oil and gas contracts.

Separately, the Paris prosecutor said Total and Chief Executive Christophe de Margerie should face trial in the same case.

Continue Reading Below

"Total used illicit payments to win business in Iran, and reaped substantial financial benefits as a result," Andrew Calamari, Director of the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), said in a statement.

"Total must now pay back all of its profits from the company's corrupt conduct and additionally pay criminal penalties on top of that."

Total had, in anticipation, booked a 316 million euro ($410 million) provision in its accounts in the second quarter of last year in connection with the investigation.

In France, the prosecutor said Margerie should also face trial for misuse of company funds as part of the case, opened in December 2006.

"It is now up to the investigating magistrate to decide," the French prosecutor said, adding that French investigators had worked with their counterparts and the financial market authority in the United States.

A Total spokesman confirmed it had been notified of the Paris prosecutor's recommendation and said the company and Margerie - previously head of exploration and production for Total in the Middle East - would demonstrate in any trial that their behaviour had been legal.

Shares in Total were down 1.6 percent shortly before the close.

"The company considers that the resolution of these cases is not expected to have a significant impact on the group's financial situation or consequences on its future planned operations," Total said in its 2012 annual report.

($1 = 0.7712 euros)

(Reporting by Muriel Boselli, Chine Labbe and Michel Rose; Additional reporting by Jonathan Stempel; Editing by James Regan and Mark Potter)