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A former oil trader at Glencore has pleaded guilty in the US over his part in a scheme to bribe government officials in Nigeria in return for lucrative oil contracts.
Anthony Stimler, a UK citizen who worked on the company’s west Africa desk until 2019, admitted to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and also money laundering, according to documents filed in a New York court on Monday night.
US prosecutors allege Stimler and seven co-conspirators paid “millions of dollars” in bribes to government officials in return for Nigeria’s state-owned oil company awarding oil contracts with more favourable delivery terms and higher grades of crude.
Glencore said it had noted the plea agreement with the US Department of Justice by a former employee of its oil business.
“The conduct described in the plea is unacceptable and has no place in Glencore,” it said in a statement. “Glencore has co-operated fully with the DoJ and other authorities in their investigations and continues to do so. Glencore has taken a number of remedial measures in light of what it has learned during the investigation.”
Stimler worked on Glencore’s west Africa desk from about 2002 to 2009 and 2011 to 2019, according to the court papers. In that role he was responsible for crude oil purchases from Nigeria among other countries.
Stimler and seven co-conspirators, who were not named, used “inflated and fraudulent invoices” to “disguise the nature and purpose of bribe payments made to government officials”, the documents said.
The papers show that in 2013 they agreed to triple the fees paid to an “intermediary company” for certain transactions for the purposes of paying bribes to an official of Nigerian National Petroleum Corp “in order to obtain favourable grades of oil”.
The DoJ has been investigating Glencore’s business dealings in three resource-rich countries, stretching back more than a decade.
It ordered the company in July 2018 to hand over documents related to possible corruption and money laundering in Nigeria, Venezuela and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
UK, Swiss and Brazilian authorities have also been examining possible corruption involving Glencore, one of the world’s biggest commodity traders and miners. Its oil business handles millions of barrels of oil a day.
The regulatory scrutiny has weighed on Glencore’s share price, which despite a surge in commodity prices remains near the level it was trading at when the DoJ investigation was announced three years ago.
The company has completely overhauled its senior management team in the past couple of years. Longstanding chief executive Ivan Glasenberg stepped down last month, while Alex Beard, who ran Glencore’s oil trading business for 12 years, retired in 2019.
Glencore is not the only big oil trader to be investigated by the US and other governments looking at historical allegations of bribery and corruption.
Vitol, the world’s biggest independent oil trader, agreed last year to pay more than $160m as part of a deferred prosecution agreement with the US DoJ after it admitted to bribery schemes in Brazil, Ecuador and Mexico involving employees and agents.
Large-scale physical commodity trading often involves operating in countries that have been hotbeds of corruption, or where it is difficult to secure business without agents who work on commission and network with government officials to help land deals.
The New York court has granted Stimler bail on security of $500,000. He will remain in the UK before his trial.