Unraveling the Gunvor Bribery Saga: $662 Million Settlement in US and Swiss Cases

Gunvor, a behemoth in the global oil trading arena, has agreed to a substantial $662 million settlement, putting an end to both U.S. and Swiss investigations. This resolution stems from a convoluted scheme involving the payment of bribes to Ecuadorean officials in exchange for lucrative business opportunities.

The Guilty Plea and Culmination of Investigations

In a landmark development, Gunvor pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate U.S. bribery laws during a hearing in federal court in Brooklyn, New York. This marked the culmination of an extensive criminal probe that had been ongoing for a considerable period. Simultaneously, the Geneva-based firm resolved a parallel investigation conducted by the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland.

The Unraveling of the Scheme

Jean-Baptiste Leclercq, Gunvor's General Counsel, acknowledged the company's involvement in a conspiracy that ran afoul of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). This transgression involved paying intermediaries to secure business dealings with Ecuador's national oil company, Petroecuador.

The Financial Reckoning

The substantial $662 million settlement comprises a $374.6 million criminal fine and a forfeiture of $287.1 million. Notably, Gunvor will receive credits for payments of up to $93 million made to both Switzerland and Ecuador.

Chairman's Apology and Commitment

Chairman Torbjörn Törnqvist expressed regret for past mistakes in an official statement. Gunvor committed to fortifying its already "industry-leading compliance program" as part of the settlement. Importantly, the agreement does not mandate Gunvor to appoint a monitor.

A Historical Timeline of Investigations

The U.S. Department of Justice and the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission initiated investigations into Gunvor as early as 2020. A significant breakthrough occurred in 2021 when a former employee pleaded guilty to orchestrating a scheme to bribe Ecuadorean government officials for business advantages.

The Alleged Bribes and Their Consequences

Between 2012 and 2020, Gunvor and its co-conspirators purportedly funneled over $97 million to intermediaries. The intention was clear – to influence Ecuadorean officials through bribes. In return, high-level Ecuadorean officials facilitated Gunvor-affiliated front companies in securing oil-backed loan contracts with Petroecuador.

Extravagance and Corruption

The extent of corruption extended to lavish gifts, with one Gunvor employee reportedly directing an intermediary to gift an 18-karat gold Patek Philippe watch to a Petroecuador official, as disclosed by the Justice Department.

International Ramifications

This is not Gunvor's first tryst with legal troubles. In 2019, Switzerland's Attorney General held Gunvor criminally liable for corruption, leading to a $95 million penalty. The charges related to bribery of officials in the Congo Republic and the Ivory Coast, making Gunvor the first major trading firm found guilty of such offenses in Switzerland.

Sector-wide Scrutiny

U.S. prosecutors have been relentless in their pursuit of fraud and misconduct in the commodities sector. Other industry giants, including Glencore, which agreed to a settlement exceeding $1 billion, and Vitol, the world's largest oil trader, have faced legal ramifications for bribery schemes in various countries.


Gunvor's $662 million settlement stands as a testament to the increasing scrutiny on unethical practices within the commodities sector. As regulatory bodies intensify their efforts, the industry must adapt to higher standards of integrity and transparency to avoid legal entanglements.

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