Tory donor Ayman Asfari to leave bribery scandal-hit Petrofac

The Conservative party donor at the centre of a bribery scandal that drew in two former prime ministers is to leave the oil group he ran for 20 years.

Ayman Asfari, the Syrian-born executive who built London-listed Petrofac into a global oil engineering company, will leave the company next year.

It will mark an end to a colourful career at the firm, during which Asfari was arrested and interviewed in 2017 when the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) began its investigation. Petrofac agreed to pay £77m last October after failing to prevent former senior employees from offering or paying bribes to secure contracts in the Middle East between 2012 and 2015. The SFO last month formally confirmed Asfari was no longer a suspect.

Asfari spent more than three decades building his empire, amassing the trappings of a billionaire lifestyle with a private jet and a superyacht to cruise on the French riviera. The success of his early career, carved out in the 1980s oil boom, has been overshadowed by the long-running fraud office investigation.

He stepped down as chief executive of the oil services company in late 2020 but has remained on the board since. The company has now disclosed in its annual report that he will depart at next summer’s annual shareholder meeting.

Petrofac was founded in Texas in 1981, before expanding internationally, and Asfari led a management buyout and a float on the London stock market in 2005. The listing netted him £55m but he has lamented that selling his 10% stake was a mistake, as the value of the company subsequently ballooned.

Asfari, 63, was born in Syria but spent his childhood on the move. His father’s diplomatic postings took him to Turkey, the US and the former Czechoslovakia. He studied at Wharton business school, whose alumni include Donald Trump and Sundar Pinchai, chief executive of Google’s owner, Alphabet.