The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland (OAG) has ordered global commodity trading house Gunvor to pay nearly $95 million for failing to take steps to prevent corruption in gaining access to the petroleum markets of the Republic of Congo and Cote d’Ivoire.
The Geneva-based trader failed to take all the ‘organisational measures that were reasonable and necessary to prevent its employees and agents from bribing public officials’ to operate in the two West African countries, the OAG said in a statement.
Last year, former Gunvor employee Pascal Collard admitted he had paid bribes to the president of the Republic of Congo through state officials to win Congolese oil contracts. The employee also said he had paid bribes on behalf of Gunvor to ministry officials to secure Cote d’Ivoire oil deals.
‘Due to serious deficiencies in its internal organisation, the oil trading company failed to prevent the bribery of public officials in the Republic of Congo and Ivory Coast between 2008 and 2011,’ the OAG said.
The company did not have a code of conduct to send a clear signal and guidance to its employees on their activities, nor did it have a compliance programme, the OAG added.
In an emailed statement, CEO Torbjorn Tornqvist admitted that the company did not previously have the correct procedures in place.
‘Today, we have a top-tier compliance programme, and we continue to improve our program as the risks and markets continue to change,’ he said in the statement.
‘I don’t want the company to be involved with anything like the Congo case ever again,’ he said. ‘And nor do our employees, or our stakeholders.’
Gunvor also said it has already made provisions for the entire amount of the fine.
Gunvor has significantly reduced its African operations in the past few years and it no longer operates in the Republic of Congo.