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Crude Consequences: Switzerland-Based Company to Pay $126 Million Criminal Fine for Oil Bribery Scheme

Date Published
Apr 23, 2024

APRIL 23, 2024. The United States announced that Swiss international commodities trading company, Trafigura Beheer B.V. (Trafigura), pled guilty to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and will pay over $126 million to resolve the investigation. The allegations stem from Trafigura’s bribes to Brazilian government officials in return for access to business with Brazil’s state-owned oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro S.S. – Petrobras (Petrobras).

From 2003 to 2014, Trafigura bribed Brazilian officials working for Petrobras to illegally do business with Petrobras. Notably, in 2009, Trafigura met with Petrobras in Miami, Florida to set the terms of the bribes, agreeing upon a rate of 20 cents per barrel of oil product from Petrobras to Trafigura. These transactions were carried out using shell companies, funneling these payments through those shells using offshore bank accounts to provide payment to Brazilian officials. Due to their illegal bribes, Trafigura saw $61 million in profits.

The $126 million penalty consists of a criminal fine of $80,488,040 and a forfeiture of $46,510,257. The DOJ will credit Trafigura up to $26,829,346 of the criminal fine against the amount Trafigura will pay to resolve a Brazilian investigation for related allegations. Trafigura received credit for cooperating with investigators and for accepting responsibility. The company also shared updates with the DOJ during its internal investigation, providing documents and data pertaining to the case. Furthermore, Trafigura took several remedial actions, creating enhanced procedures to mitigate corruption and train employees in compliance measures. Trafigura fell short on several accounts, failing to preserve and produce evidence, and at times failed to fully cooperate with the DOJ.

The DOJ’s success in holding Trafigura accountable stands as a testament to the seriousness of defrauding the government for financial gain. The government, however, cannot discover every transgression on its own. Whistleblowers are the lifeblood of holding companies accountable, bringing fraudulent behavior to the government’s attention that it was previously unaware of.

If you would like to report securities, commodities, or banking fraud or FCPA violations, you can contact attorneys at Tycko & Zavareei LLP.  Eva Gunasekera and Renée Brooker are former officials of the United States Department of Justice and prosecuted whistleblower cases under the False Claims Act and FIRREA. Renée served as Assistant Director at the United States Department of Justice, the office that supervises False Claims Act and FIRREA cases in all 94 United States District Courts. Eva was the Senior Counsel for Health Care Fraud. Eva and Renée now represent whistleblowers. For a free consultation, you can contact Renée at[email protected] (tel.: 202-417-3664) or contact Eva Gunasekera at[email protected]. You can also go to Tycko & Zavareei LLP’s website for whistleblowers to learn more at

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