The former co-chief executive officer of oil and gas services company PetroTiger Ltd. pleaded guilty Tuesday for bribing an official at Ecopetrol SA, Colombia’s state-controlled oil company, and defrauding PetroTiger by taking kickbacks.
Knut Hammarskjold, 42, of Greenville, South Carolina pleaded guilty in federal court in Camden, New Jersey to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit wire fraud.
He’s scheduled for sentencing on May 16.
PetroTiger is a privately held British Virgin Islands company with operations in Colombia and offices in New Jersey. It provides production testing services to oil and gas companies.
Its former general counsel, Gregory Weisman, 42, of Moorestown, New Jersey pleaded guilty to the same charges on November 8, 2013.
A third defendant, Joseph Sigelman, 42, of Miami and the Philippines, who served as the other former co-CEO, still faces six counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to violate the FCPA, conspiracy to launder money, and substantive violations of the FCPA.
Sigelman was released on $4.4 million bail after he appeared in early January in federal court in Camden. He flew to the U.S. from Guam after his January 3 arrest in the Philippines.
The defendants allegedly made at least four payments in 2010 from PetroTiger’s bank account in the United States to the Ecopetrol official’s bank account in Colombia worth a total of about $333,500.
The DOJ said they tried to make the payments to “a bank account in the name of the foreign official’s wife, for purported consulting services she did not perform.” When those transfers didn’t go through, the defendants made payments directly to the Ecopetrol official’s bank account, according to the charges.
The defendants were also charged with taking kickbacks for an acquisition of another company on behalf of PetroTiger. In exchange for a higher purchase price, two of the owners of the target company agreed to pay the defendants a portion of the increased purchase price, the DOJ said. The payments went to Sigelman’s bank account in the Philippines under a phony “side letter” for services, according to the DOJ.
Hammarskjold was arrested on November 20 at Newark (New Jersey) Liberty International Airport.
Conspiracy to commit violations of the FCPA carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Conspiracy to commit wire fraud carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison.
The DOJ said it “has worked closely with and has received significant assistance from its law enforcement counterparts in the Republic of Colombia.”
The DOJ’s February 18, 2014 release is here.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.