Energy trader Gunvor to pay over $660 million to settle US bribery case By Reuters

By Jonathan Stempel, Luc Cohen and Chris Prentice

NEW YORK (Reuters) -Gunvor pleaded guilty on Friday to a felony charge of conspiring to violate a U.S. anti-bribery law and agreed to pay more than $660 million, marking the end of a long-running criminal probe into the big energy trader.

Gunvor’s plea to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) was accepted by U.S. District Judge Eric Vitaliano in the federal court in Brooklyn, New York.

Jean-Baptiste Leclercq, Gunvor’s general counsel, told the judge that the trader conspired to violate the anti-bribery law by making payments to intermediaries to win business with Ecuador’s national oil company Petroecuador.

Gunvor is one of the world’s five largest oil traders.

Its payout includes a $374.6 million criminal fine and the forfeiture of $287.1 million, federal prosecutor Jonathan Lax said at the hearing.

The Geneva-based trader will be credited for up to $93 million in payments to both Switzerland and Ecuador, he added. Gunvor also agreed to resolve a related investigation by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland, the company said.

In a statement, Gunvor Chairman Torbjorn Tornqvist said his company was sorry for past mistakes, and was committed to enhancing its now “industry-leading compliance program.”

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission had been probing Gunvor since at least 2020, and a former employee in 2021 pleaded guilty over a scheme to bribe Ecuadorean government officials to win business.

Reuters reported in December that Gunvor had set aside $650 million to resolve the probe.

The investigation was part of a multi-year push by U.S. authorities to root out fraud and misconduct in the commodities sector.

Traders who buy and sell raw materials often operate in jurisdictions where corruption is common, putting them at risk of violating the FCPA, which prohibits paying bribes to foreign officials.

Foreign companies that conduct business in the United States are subject to that law.

In February 2023, a federal judge in Manhattan ordered Glencore (OTC:) to pay $700 million after the mining and commodities trading giant firm pleaded guilty to a decade-long bribery scheme covering several countries.

And in December, Connecticut-based commodities trader Freepoint Commodities reached a $98 million settlement of bribery and other U.S. charges.

Vitol, the world’s largest oil trader, resolved U.S. and Brazilian probes in December 2020 by agreeing to pay $164 million and admitting to bribing officials in Brazil, Mexico and Ecuador.

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