A French court has today fined oil giant Total €500,000 for corruption after finding it guilty of paying bribes while bidding for a huge gas contract in Iran in 1997. 

The French company was accused of paying $30 million in bribes to middlemen, in return for help in securing the rights to the South Pars natural gas field, the world's largest. 

In 2013, Total paid $398m in the US to settle similar charges arising in that country out of the joint French-US investigation. 

The French part of the probe, which was launched back in 2006, initially covered both the 1997 South Pars deal, worth $2 billion, and the 1995 concession for the Sirri A and E oil fields. 

Total was suspected of paying a total of $60m in bribes between 1995 and 2004. 

But in the end the multinational was only tried for the $30m it paid in connection with South Pars after 2000, when a new French law on "corruption of foreign public officials" came into effect.

While convicting the company, the court rejected prosecutors' call for it to seize €250m in assets - investigators' estimate of the value of the proceeds of the corruption. 

Total's late CEO Christophe de Margerie, who was head of Middle East exploration at the time of the payments, was also being investigated before his sudden death in a plane crash in Moscow in 2014.