Commodities Trading Company Pleads Guilty to Foreign Bribery Scheme

Commodities Trading Company Pleads Guilty to Foreign Bribery Scheme

Trafigura Beheer B.V. (Trafigura), a renowned commodities trading company headquartered in Switzerland, has pleaded guilty to charges stemming from a foreign bribery scheme. The plea deal, announced today, entails Trafigura paying over $126 million to resolve an extensive investigation conducted by the U.S. Justice Department into violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The investigation revealed a pattern of corruption within Trafigura's operations, particularly concerning its dealings with Brazilian government officials to secure business with Petrobras, Brazil’s state-owned oil giant. Trafigura admitted to orchestrating a scheme spanning over a decade, involving the payment of bribes to Petrobras officials. These illicit payments, totaling up to 20 cents per barrel of oil products, were concealed through the use of shell companies and intermediaries with offshore bank accounts funneling cash to Brazilian officials.

Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri, who heads the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, remarked, “For more than a decade, Trafigura bribed Brazilian officials to illegally obtain business and reap over $61 million in profits.” This underscores the severity of corporate malfeasance and the commitment of law enforcement agencies to hold such entities accountable.

As part of the plea agreement, Trafigura will pay a criminal fine of $80,488,040 and forfeiture of $46,510,257. Notably, a portion of the fine will be credited against amounts Trafigura pays to resolve related investigations by Brazilian law enforcement authorities. U.S. Attorney Markenzy Lapointe for the Southern District of Florida emphasized the ongoing efforts to combat foreign corrupt practices and reiterated the commitment to prosecute both individuals and corporations involved in such schemes.

The investigation, conducted jointly by the Justice Department and the FBI, uncovered Trafigura's concerted efforts to circumvent anti-corruption laws for financial gain. Assistant Director Michael Nordwall of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division emphasized the gravity of Trafigura's actions, stating, “Trafigura’s corrupt practices violated the FCPA, and today’s resolution demonstrates that there are steep penalties for any company that tries to bribe government officials.”

Despite Trafigura's cooperation with the investigation and its affirmative acceptance of responsibility, the company's prior misconduct, including a 2006 guilty plea for false statements and a 2010 conviction for environmental violations, weighed heavily in the determination of the appropriate resolution. Additionally, Trafigura's initial reluctance to fully engage in resolution negotiations prolonged the process, necessitating extensive efforts and resources from the Justice Department.

Prosecution of the case is being led by Trial Attorneys Natalie Kanerva and Clayton P. Solomon of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, along with Assistant U.S. Attorneys Eli S. Rubin and Joshua Paster for the Southern District of Florida. The FBI Los Angeles Field Office, with assistance from the FBI’s International Corruption Unit, is actively involved in the ongoing investigation.

The Justice Department’s collaborative efforts with international counterparts from Brazil, Switzerland, and Uruguay have been instrumental in advancing the investigation and ensuring accountability for Trafigura's misconduct.

As Trafigura faces the consequences of its illegal actions, this case serves as a stark reminder of the imperative to uphold integrity in corporate practices and the commitment of law enforcement agencies to combat corruption on a global scale.

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