Swiss Firm Pleads Guilty to Iraq Oil-for-Food Violations
A Swiss commodities trading company pleaded guilty Thursday to violating U.S. federal law in connection with the United Nations oilfor-food program for Iraq and agreed to pay penalties of nearly $20 million.
Trafigura admitted in U.S. District Court in Victoria, Texas, that it had falsely told Houston-area energy companies that more than 500,000 barrels of imported Iraqi oil had been obtained in compliance with the humanitarian program that was set up after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The oil was sold on two occasions in 2001, along with much larger shipments that were part of the U.N. program.
Profit from the oil eventually went into the company’s coffers, an investigation by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement found.
The company agreed to forfeit $9.9 million, representing the proceeds from the sale, and pay criminal and civil penalties of another $9.9 million, according to the plea agreement.
A U.N. investigation found massive corruption in the $64-billion oil-for-food program, which allowed Iraq to sell oil, provided that most of the money went to buy humanitarian goods. The program was aimed at easing the plight of ordinary Iraqis hit hard by U.N. sanctions imposed after Saddam Hussein’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait.