Switzerland to Investigate Possible Link to Ecuador Bribery Case

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Swiss prosecutors opened a criminal probe to search for possible links to a $22 million bribery scheme orchestrated by an ex-Gunvor Group trader targeting Ecuadorean public officials.

Federal prosecutors decided to start the investigation against “persons unknown” earlier this month after court documents in an existing U.S. criminal probe came to light, Swiss authorities said in a statement on Wednesday.

Raymond Kohut, an ex-employee of Geneva oil trader Gunvor admitted in April to paying more than $22 million in bribes to government officials in Ecuador to win business from state-owned oil company Petroecuador. Gunvor has previously said it “terminated its relationship” with business-development agents who worked with Kohut that were involved in the case before learning of the investigation because of compliance issues.

A spokesman for Gunvor declined to comment.

Swiss prosecutors did not name anyone or any company being targeted in their own investigation.

Public Eye, a Swiss anti-corruption campaign group, says the case is further evidence of why the Swiss government must regulate the country’s commodities industry, a key contributor to the Swiss economy, rather than just having local prosecutors chase down alleged wrongdoing.

Switzerland should “equip itself with legislation and a specific supervisory authority capable of overseeing a sector which has made risk its business model,” the pressure group said in a statement. “Justice cannot play the role of firefighter alone.”

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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