Geneva oil trader reaches $661M settlement with US, Swiss authorities over bribery in Ecuador


GENEVA (AP) — Geneva-based commodities trading firm Gunvor said Friday that it has reached a $661 million settlement with U.S. and Swiss prosecutors after convictions for bribery of foreign officials in connection with the petroleum industry in Ecuador.

The Swiss attorney general’s office says the company, which was founded decades ago by oil traders Gennady Timchenko of Russia and Torbjörn Törnqvist of Sweden, didn’t take “reasonable and necessary organizational measures” to prevent bribery by its employees in the South American country over four years starting in February 2013.

A statement from U.S. Federal Court in Brooklyn said Judge Vitaliano sentenced Gunvor to pay a criminal penalty of over $374 million and forfeit more than $287 million in “ill-gotten gains.”

“Gunvor has accepted responsibility for the actions of certain of its former agents and employees – all of whom Gunvor stopped working with years ago and before it learned of the U.S. investigation – and pled guilty in federal court in New York” on Friday, the company said in a statement.

The Swiss prosecutors said the case involved payouts to that led the state petroleum company Petroecuador to award two oil-related contracts to Gunvor. U.S. authorities said the Geneva commodities trader earned more than $384 million in profits “from the business it corruptly obtained” related to the Ecuadorian oil company.

U.S. authorities said they had previously won convictions in New York of four people who pleaded guilty to money laundering-related charges, including former Gunvor consultants Antonio Pere Ycaza and Enrique Pere Ycaza; former Gunvor employee and agent Raymond Kohut; and Nilsen Arias Sandoval, a former senior Petroecuador official.

“Gunvor’s years long bribery scheme involving high-level Ecuadoran officials was both detrimental to the business environment and eroded the public’s trust and confidence in their government,” said FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Jeffrey Veltri in a statement.

He credited “significant cooperation” from authorities in the Cayman Islands, Colombia, Curacao, Ecuador, Panama, Portugal, Singapore, and Switzerland.

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