The former chief executive and chief operating officer of collapsed oil firm Afren have been sentenced to 30 years in jail for fraud and money laundering offences committed while in charge of the company, the Serious Fraud Office said today.
Former chief executive Osman Shahenshah and former operations chief Shahid Ullah received more than $45m (£35m) from a $300m business deal they recommended to their firm Afren, some of which was used to buy luxury properties in the Caribbean.
The deals were conducted with Afren's Nigerian oil partners, without the knowledge of the company's board of directors.
Sentencing Shahenshah at Southwark Crown Court, Judge Gledhill QC said: "You believed that you were above the law, you believed that you were so clever that no one would ever discover your offending."
Shahenshah and Ullah recommended the $300m deal with Nigerian field operator Oriental Energy Resources to the board, having struck a side deal with Oriental in which 15 per cent of the deal would be paid out to shell companies based in the Caribbean.
A smaller portion of the $45m siphoned from the deal was split between Oriental employees and a network of Afren staff referred to by Shahenshah and Ullah as "the A Team".
Serious Fraud Office director Lisa Osofsky said: "The significant sentences reflect the seriousness of this fraud. Shahenshah and Ullah violated their duties and their employees, the board of directors and shareholders paid the price.
"They abused their positions to line their own pockets and it is satisfying that they have been brought to justice."
The two men, who had entered no plea, were found not guilty on a separate charge last week regarding a management buyout of another of Afren's business partners.
The criminal investigation began in June 2015 following a self-report by Afren, while the defendants were charged with four offences in September last year. The company went into administration in July 2015, having failed to secure support for a refinancing and restructuring plan.