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U.S. Charges Former Vitol Oil Trader In International Bribery Scheme

The U.S. has charged a former trader at the biggest independent oil trading group Vitol for violating anti-bribery and anti-money laundering regulations for offering bribes to Mexican officials to obtain business for Vitol.

Javier Aguilar, 49, from Texas, was due to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Yvonne Ho in Houston on Monday afternoon, the United State Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas said.

The five-count indictment says that Aguilar allegedly conspired to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and allegedly violated the FCPA, the Travel Act, and the money laundering statutes in connection with a scheme involving Mexican government officials.

The charges allege that between August 2017 and July 2020, Aguilar and others knowingly, willfully, and corruptly offered and paid bribes to and for the benefit of Mexican officials. Aguilar allegedly intended to obtain and retain business for Vitol related to Mexico’s state oil firm Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), and PPI, a wholly-owned and controlled subsidiary of PEMEX with its principal place of business in Houston.

“To promote the bribery scheme and to conceal the proceeds derived from it, Aguilar and his co-conspirators caused the bribes to be paid through a series of transactions and shell companies, according to the charges,” the U.S. Department of Justice said on Monday.

Aguilar is charged with violating the FCPA and conspiracy to do so, which both carry a possible five-year-federal prison sentence as does a conviction of violation of the Travel Act. If convicted of either of the two money laundering charges, Aguilar could receive up to 20 years in prison.

In late 2020, after several bribery scandals in South America for Vitol emerged, the oil trader agreed to pay $164 million in fines and disgorgement by the DOJ and CFTC for oil bribes in Brazil, Mexico, and Ecuador. Vitol has also been slapped with penalties by the CFTC for attempting to manipulate two S&P Global Platts physical oil benchmarks.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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