By Julia Payne
BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Global commodities trader Trafigura said on Wednesday it was setting aside $127 million to cover a possible U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) fine to end a probe into “improper payments” by the company in Brazil roughly a decade ago.
The Geneva-based company is also facing charges in Switzerland for alleged bribery in Angola.
“The company understands that the (DOJ) 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 Brazil,” Trafigura said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) of Switzerland said on Wednesday it filed an indictment in the Federal Criminal Court against Trafigura for failing to prevent alleged unlawful payments via a third party to a former employee of Angola’s state oil company Sonangol between 2009-2011.
It said in a statement it has charged Trafigura’s former chief operating officer Mike Wainwright.
Trafigura said it would defend itself in court and that Wainwright rejected the charges and would also defend himself.
A former Angolan public official is also charged with having accepted bribes of more than 4.3 million euros and $604,000 from the Trafigura Group, in relation to its activities in the petroleum industry in Angola, the OAG said.
In return for these “undue advantages”, the official is alleged to have favoured Trafigura by enabling the development of ship chartering and bunkering activities between the company and Angolan oil firm Sonangol, the AOG said.
The OAG said the Angolan official’s alleged activities in relation to Trafigura led to eight ship chartering contracts and one ship bunkering deal between June 2009 and July 2010. Trafigura is alleged to have made profits from these contracts amounting so far to $143.7 million.
The former Sonangol employee and a former consultant to DT Group, a joint-venture with Trafigura, are being charged as well.
The latest developments come as the industrial metals and oil trader fights another court battle in relation to its nickel business.
Trafigura filed a lawsuit against Indian businessman Prateek Gupta in February, alleging that it had been victim of a $600-million fraud masterminded by Gupta and his companies.
Lawyers for Gupta rejected Trafigura’s allegations.
(Reporting by Julia Payne in Brussels and Natalie Grover in London;Editing by Mark Potter and Emelia Sithole-Matarise)