Trafigura é acusada na Suíça de corrupção em Angola
Share Facebook Twitter E-mail Print Copy link
A former Angolan public official is charged with having accepted bribes to the tune of EUR4.3 million (CHF4 million) and $604,000 (CHF528,077) from the Trafigura Group, in relation to its activities in the petroleum industry in Angola between April 2009 and October 2011.
In addition, a former intermediary and a former senior executive of the Trafigura are charged with being involved in this corruption scheme. Finally, Trafigura Beheer BV (TBBV), the parent company is charged with failing to take all reasonable and necessary organisational measures to prevent the payment of these bribes. For the first time, the Federal Criminal Court is called upon to judge the criminal liability of a company for bribery of foreign public officials.
OAG details the case
The OAG issued a statement on Wednesday outlining the background of the case. It opened a criminal investigation against persons unknown in July 2020 on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials and of money laundering related to potential corrupt payments to Angolan public official. The investigation was extended in 2021 and again in March 2023.
The first defendant is former chief executive officer and executive member of the board of Sonangol Distribuidora SA, a subsidiary of the Angolan state-owned petroleum company Sociedade Nacional de Combustíveis de Angola, E.P. He is suspected of bribery of foreign public officials and of money laundering.
The second defendant is a former intermediary for the Trafigura Group in Angola.
The third defendant is former chief operating officer and member of the management board of TBBV. He and TBBV were investigated by the OAG on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials, according to an official statement on the matter.
Between 2009 and 2011, TBBV, headquartered in the Netherlands, was the reference parent company of the Trafigura commodities trading group and had branches in Geneva and Lucerne. At the time, Trafigura Group was active in Angola in the ship chartering and bunkering sectors, its main clients being the Angolan government, respectively Sonangol EP and its subsidiaries, in particular Sonangol Distribuidora SA. The latter was responsible for the distribution and marketing of petroleum products, both on the domestic and foreign markets.
According to the indictment, the first defendant is alleged to have accepted, between April 2009 and October 2011, in his capacity as an Angolan public official, undue advantages from the Trafigura Group in the form of bank transfers totaling EUR4,346,176.60 made to a bank account in Geneva, cash payments totaling $604,000 in Angola, and payment of hotel and meal expenses totaling CHF797.25 related to a stay in Geneva. These facts would amount to passive bribery of foreign public officials under Swiss law.
The second defendant, acting through an offshore company as an intermediary for the Trafigura Group, of which he is a former employee, is alleged to have granted, between August 2009 and October 2011, part of the above-mentioned undue advantages to the Angolan public official in the form of bank transfers (totaling EUR3,991,315) to a bank account in Geneva and cash payments (totaling $604,000) in Angola. These facts would amount to active bribery of foreign public officials under Swiss law.
The third defendant is alleged to have granted part of the undue advantages to the Angolan public official in the form of bank transfers (totaling EUR4,346,176.60) made to a bank account in Geneva and cash payments (totaling $604,000) in Angola. Subsidiarily, he is alleged to have granted these undue advantages by omission, while holding a position of guarantor within the Trafigura Group. These facts would amount to active bribery of foreign public officials, according to the OAG.
In return for the above-mentioned undue advantages, the Angolan public official is alleged to have favoured the Trafigura Group's interests by enabling the development of ship chartering and bunkering activities between the Trafigura Group and Sonangol SA. The indictment points to the conclusion, between June 2009 and July 2010, of eight ship chartering contracts and one ship bunkering contract. Thanks to the income that arose from these contracts, the Trafigura Group is alleged to have made profits amounting to $143.7 million.
Alleged lack of oversight
Lastly, the OAG accuses TBBV of failing to take all reasonable and necessary organisational measures to prevent the commission, within the company, of offences of bribery of foreign public officials. According to the indictment, the Trafigura Group's internal regulations applicable between April 2009 and October 2011 are alleged to have not been in conformity with international standards on preventing and combating corruption.
The presumption of innocence applies to the accused until a final judgment is rendered, the OAG noted. Once the indictment has been filed, the Federal Criminal Court has sole competence to provide any other information.
Trafigura issued a swift statement in response. The statement noted the company has been seeking to resolve investigations by regulatory authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland into payments made by former employees via third parties, noting these happened“over a decade ago.”
It said the investigations stem in part from statements made by Mariano Marcondes Ferraz, a former Trafigura employee, as part of a plea agreement following his conviction in a separate case in Brazil, not related to Trafigura. Trafigura announced it anticipates resolving the US Department of Justice investigation into improper payments made in Brazil shortly and will disclose in its 2023 annual Report a provision of $127 million, which will be made available to TBBV, the parent company during the period in question.
In Switzerland, TBBV will defend itself at court, including in view of the compliance and anti-bribery and corruption controls in place at the relevant time.“Former Trafigura Chief Operating Officer Mike Wainwright rejects the charges against him and will defend himself in court,” the company statement declared.
In Brazil, TBBV remains involved in an ongoing civil case.
“We sincerely regret these incidents which breached our code of conduct and are contrary to our values,” Trafigura Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Jeremy Weir said in a statement. “We have made extensive efforts over many years to instill a culture of responsible conduct at Trafigura. Since the period in question, we have significantly enhanced our compliance programme and controls... These historical incidents in no way represent the company we are today.”
Send us your input
Do you have more questions about this story?
Your contribution Our journalists will take your contribution on board for their coverage and may follow up with you via email. If you have questions, get in touch . Your contribution... How we work
This news story has been written and carefully fact-checked by an external editorial team. At SWI swissinfo we select the most relevant news for an international audience and use automatic translation tools such as DeepL to translate it into English. Providing you with automatically translated news gives us the time to write more in-depth articles. You can find them here.
If you want to know more about how we work, have a look here, and if you have feedback on this news story please write to ....
End of insertion External Content Your subscription could not be saved. Please try again. Almost finished... We need to confirm your email address. To complete the subscription process, please click the link in the email we just sent you. Daily news
Get the most important news from Switzerland in your inbox.
I consent to the use of my data for the SWI swissinfo newsletter.
Articles in this story
Do you have more questions about this story?
In compliance with the JTI standards
More: SWI swissinfo certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative
You can find an overview of ongoing debates with our journalists here . Please join us!
If you want to start a conversation about a topic raised in this article or want to report factual errors, email us at ... .