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DOJ Announces Indictment Of Oil Trader In Connection With Alleged Ecuador Bribery Scheme

Yesterday, the DOJ announced [1] that Javier Aguilar (described as a trader at the U.S. subsidiary of a multinational oil distributor and trading company – “Trading Company) was criminally charged for “his alleged participation in a five-year international bribery and money laundering scheme involving corrupt payments to Ecuadorian officials.” According to this report [2], Aguilar’s former employer is Vitol Inc [3]. As highlighted in this previous post [4], Vitol has reportedly been under scrutiny.

Although not mentioned in the indictment, the DOJ releases references an “original complaint [5]” and that the Ecuadorian officials included individuals associated with PetroEcuador (a business organization previously mentioned in FCPA enforcement actions – see here [6] and here [7]).

The relatively brief indictment [8] alleges in pertinent part as follows:

“On or about September 20, 2016, Aguilar … sent an e-mail to Consultant #2, directing Consultant #2 to send letters from a State-Owned Entity in Oman … to “el gordo,” the code name for Ecuadorian Official 1 … who was a government official in Ecuador.

On or about March 7, 2018, Intermediary … forwarded to Aguilar at Aguilar’s pseudonymous, non-work e-mail address and others, an e-mail that Intermediary received from Consultant #2, attaching 39 sham invoices from Consulting Company to Shell Company … The 39 invoices were dated between approximately January 2017 and January 2018 and included 13 invoices … In the e-mail … Intermediary told Aguilar … that he had received the attached invoices for purported consulting services from the “los Equatorenos,” a reference to Consultant #1 and Consultant #2, and he asked how he should proceed.

On or about April 20, 2018, the parent company of Trading Company … wired approximately $750,000 from a bank account located in London, United Kingdom to a bank account located in Curacao in the name of Shell Company.

On or about May 28, 2018 and June 25, 2018 … Shell Company wired three payments totaling approximately 201,306 Euro and one payment totaling approximately $19,283 to bank accounts for Consulting Company located in the Cayman Islands and Curacao. Shell Company’s bank statements showing these wires references the same 13 invoices.

On or about July 5, 2018, Consultant #1, who resided in the U.S., and Consultant #2, while in the U.S., sent instructions to a bank to wire approximately $225,000 from an account owned by Consultant #1 and Consultant #2 located in the Cayman Islands, through a correspondent bank account located in New York, to an account located in Portugal for the benefit of Ecuadorian Official #1.”

[9]

Based on the above allegations, Aguilar was charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit money laundering.

The DOJ’s release states that the conspiracy was to obtain and retain business for Trading Company, in particular, a $300 million contract to purchase fuel oil that was awarded to a state-owned entity for the benefit of Trading Company.

The original complaint references two cooperating witnesses who have “entered into written cooperation agreements with the government and are expected to enter guilty pleas” to participating in one or more conspiracies to violate the FCPA. The complaint mentions certain “recorded phone calls and meetings.”

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