(Reuters) – Swiss prosecutors said on Wednesday they are investigating whether bribery, money laundering or other crimes linked to Ecuador oil trading were committed in Switzerland following a U.S. criminal case against an ex-Gunvor Group employee.
U.S. prosecutors are investigating “the suspected bribery of Ecuadorian public officials and money laundering,” the Swiss attorney general’s office said in a statement announcing its investigation.
Gunvor declined to comment.
The attorney general’s office said its probe “aims to clarify whether in relation to this complex of facts any offences could have been committed on Swiss soil” and added it is initially targeting “persons unknown on suspicion of bribery of foreign public officials”.
In April, a former employee at the Geneva-based commodities house pleaded guilty to involvement in what U.S. federal prosecutors called a scheme to bribe Ecuadorean government officials to win business from state-controlled oil company Petroecuador. read more
Raymond Kohut, a 68-year-old Canadian who faces up to 20 years in prison, is alleged to have been part of a conspiracy with fellow Gunvor employees, consultants and Ecuadorian officials that led to payments of $22 million in bribes to the officials.
Gunvor, which was suspended from Petroecuador’s list of providers, has said it has been cooperating with the U.S. probe and has taken steps to ban the use of what it called “agents” for business development purposes.
In 2019 the company was found liable in Switzerland for corruption in oil deals in Congo Republic and Ivory Coast and ordered to pay about $100 million.