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Switzerland: Oil trader sentenced for Africa bribes

A former Geneva-based oil trader was given an 18-month suspended sentence for bribing officials in Africa in exchange for oil shipments.
 
Pascal Collard, a Belgian with Swiss residence, admitted bribing officials in the Congo and Ivory Coast.

The Swiss Federal Criminal Court said Tuesday he must also pay $33,850 in court costs.

Collard formerly worked for Geneva-based trading giant Gunvor.

He allegedly said his former bosses knew about the bribery, according to an investigative report by Public Eye, a Swiss transparency group.

Gunvor has denied the allegations. It “wholly rejects the possibility of a conscious and desired involvement of any other employee or executive,” the company said in a statement to Bloomberg.

Gunvor Group’s revenues in 2017 were $63 billion. It has 1,600 employees in trading offices in Geneva
Singapore, Houston, Nassau, Stamford, Shanghai, and Dubai.

Gunvor told Bloomberg that Collard tried to “fragment, compartmentalize and falsify information, purposely preventing his colleagues from having a concrete and overall view of the facts that have occurred in Congo-Brazzaville.” 

Public Eye alleged Tuesday that Gunvor’s CEO “gave his approval for a Congolese public official to be hired as an intermediary.”

A “special advisor to the president of Congo” received more than $10 million dollars in commissions through Geneva-based bank, Clariden Leu, Public Eye said.

About $2.4 million “benefited the presidential family, particularly the First Lady of Congo Brazzaville, Antoinette Sassou Nguesso, and the President Denis Sassou Nguesso,” according to Public Eye.

The Natural Resource Governance Institute published a report in 2016 that talked about the graft risk in oil trading and other commodities.

Public Eye said Tuesday, “This landmark case shows that Switzerland needs to regulate the Swiss commodities trading sector.”

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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