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DOJ charges oil trader with FCPA and money laundering conspiracy

A federal grand jury in Brooklyn indicted an oil trader Tuesday for bribing officials in Ecuador.

Javier Aguilar, 46, a Mexican citizen living in the United States, was charged in a two-count indictment with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit money laundering.

The DOJ said Aguilar was a trader “at the U.S. subsidiary of a multinational oil distributor and trading company.”

He allegedly paid $870,000 in bribes to Ecuadoran officials for help winning a $300 million fuel-oil contract with the state energy company, Petroecuador.

Aguilar and his co-conspirators allegedly used sham consulting agreements with intermediaries and offshore shell companies to pay the bribes, the DOJ said.

The indictment and a DOJ statement didn’t name Aguilar’s former employer.

A report from Bloomberg Tuesday described Aguilar as a “former manager at Vitol Group, the world’s largest oil-trading firm.” Bloomberg said its source was “a person with knowledge of the matter who asked not to be identified because it’s private.”

Bloomberg said an email to Vitol for comment wasn’t immediately returned and Aguilar couldn’t be reached for comment.

In late 2018, Global Witness published a report about graft connected to Brazil’s Operation Car Wash that mentioned agents engaged by Vitol.

In a response, Geneva-based Vitol issued a statement that said in part:

Vitol has a zero tolerance policy in respect of bribery and corruption. Its business is managed in full compliance with all relevant legislation. Vitol was contacted in September 2018 by Global Witness and has since liaised extensively with it. The Global Witness report contains no evidence of any wrongdoing by Vitol.

The DOJ said the alleged bribe scheme in Ecuador ran for five years starting in 2015.

Download the indictment against Javier Aguilar here.

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