The National Court has sentenced a former OHL executive to seven years in prison for collecting illegal commissions, which he pocketed through a corporate network with ramifications in Andorra and Panama. The magistrates consider it proven that the defendant, responsible for the company in Algeria, diverted more than four million euros from the construction company —for which he used another company contracted by OHL itself—. The judges sentenced him for a crime of fraud and for another of money laundering, according to a resolution dated November 18. The Spanish firm details that it filed the complaint against its former employee after opening an internal investigation.
The court describes throughout its sentence the plan hatched by the former manager, who had been at OHL since 1991 and who, between 2006 and 2016, served as delegate director for the geographical area of Algeria. According to the judges, at that time, the construction company was interested in being awarded the contract for the Sonatrach Convention Center in Oran, one of the “largest” hydrocarbon-producing companies in the world. An “emblematic work of great economic and business importance”, according to the National High Court, for which the Spanish firm needed support in the region.
Therefore, on behalf of OHL, in 2007 the former manager signed a contract with the Moroccan company Roc Assistance to provide him with “strategic, logistical and public relations services”. In exchange for his work, this company would charge 3% of the global amount of the project in Oran. But, according to the judges, a part of that percentage was actually going to end up in the pockets of the construction worker himself. The court says that the defendant had “agreed” with Roc Assistance to receive, in exchange for hiring this Moroccan company, almost a quarter of the commission. Everything, behind the back of the heads of him.
The money was moved through a corporate network. According to the ruling, once OHL paid Roc, the representative of this company transferred his part of the commission to the manager. He did it to an account that the person in charge of the construction company in Algeria had opened in the Bank of Sabadell in Andorra, in the name of a Panamanian company that he had bought in 2007 together with his wife. In total, it entered 4.2 million euros of the 18.3 million that OHL paid to the Moroccan company.
The conviction has come after a hard battle. The Prosecutor’s Office maintained that “the defendant was appointed by OHL to supervise the project and, taking advantage of that situation of privilege and trust”, defrauded his company. But, in the first instance, the Second Section of the Criminal Chamber acquitted the manager, considering that there was no “deception” of OHL, “nuclear element” of the crime of fraud. As argued by the members of that court, which considered it proven that the defendant pocketed the 4.2 million, the construction company “agreed to sign this contract with this or another local technical advisor, and remunerate the order with a percentage of what was invoiced. , which varied from 0.5% to 4% of the business only in the event that the negotiations were successful”. “In this case, the procedures were successful and were carried out to the satisfaction of OHL. So, the only thing he disagrees with is that a part of that percentage went to his manager in charge of managing the business, and that he was already paid for it,” he said in his ruling on July 15. .
He knows in depth all the sides of the coin.
A resolution that OHL appealed to the Court of Appeal, which has proved it right. According to the opinion of this second court, the defendant did deceive the construction company. “This could have hired the local technical advisor for a commission of 2.3%, which was what he was really agreeing that he was going to charge. But the defendant, instead of making the favorable contract for his company, agrees that OHL pay the advisor 3% ”, says the sentence of November 18. The difference between the two percentages was left to him, the ruling clinches, against which there is an appeal before the Supreme Court.
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George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.