The trial, expected to last a month, could be delayed for several months to consider claims made Monday by defense attorneys that violating the United Nations embargo was not a crime in France at the time the offenses allegedly occurred, Radio France Internationale reported Tuesday.
Christophe de Margerie, the head of Total, is charged with complicity in purchasing illicit oil shipments from Saddam Hussein, while the company is charged with corruption and involvement in fraudulent activity for allegedly buying some of the crude oil.
Former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua is charged with receiving oil consignments.
The U.N. oil-for-food program between 1996 and 2003 allowed Saddam Hussein, then the president of Iraq, to sell some oil to pay for basics such as food and medicine. Some oil was sold illicitly in violation of the sanctions.