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Glencore agrees to pay $1.1B to settle bribery, price-fixing charges

Glencore agrees to pay $1.1B to settle bribery, price-fixing charges
U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland on Tuesday announced Swiss-based commodities and mining giant Glencore has agreed to pay $1.1 billion to resolve bribery and price-fixing charges brought against it. File Photo by Win McNamee/UPI | License Photo

May 25 (UPI) -- Commodity and mining firm Glencore International has pleaded guilty to running a multinational bribery scheme and manipulating fuel oil prices in the United States and will pay some $1.1 billion in penalties, Attorney General Merrick Garland said.

The United States' top prosecutor announced the guilty pleas on Tuesday during a press conference as he unveiled the charges brought against the Swiss-based company.

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Garland said Glencore has agreed to pay $700 million for running a decade-long scheme where it bribed officials in Nigeria, Cameroon, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Brazil, Venezuela and Democratic Republic of Congo to secure business advantages.

It has also agreed to pay $485 million for an eight-year scheme by its U.S. commodities trading arm that sought to manipulate fuel oil prices at two of the United States' busiest commercial shipping ports. Garland said it was the largest criminal enforcement action brought by his department in a case concerning a commodity price manipulation conspiracy in oil markets.

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"The rule of law requires that there not be one rule for the powerful and another for the powerless; one rule for the rich and another for the poor," Garland said.

The Justice Department said it has also secured guilty pleas from two former senior traders, one who was involved in the bribery case and is to be sentenced on Oct. 3 and the other who was involved in the conspiracy to manipulate fuel prices and is to be sentenced June 24.

The charges were a result of a coordinated investigation between criminal and civil authorities in the United States, Britain and Brazil.

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Britain on Tuesday also charged Glencore with seven counts of bribery, which the Swiss-based company said it intends to plead guilty to.

"Glencore today is not the company it was when the unacceptable practices behind this misconduct occurred," Kalidas Madhavpeddi, chairman of the company, said in a statement. "The board and the management team are committed to operating a company that creates value for all stakeholders by operating transparently under a well-defined set of values, with openness and integrity at the forefront."

The Justice Department accused Glencore of conspiring to bribe officials in the seven South American and African nations from 2007 to 2018.

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The charges state that the company paid more than $100 million to third-parties with the intent that a large portion of those funds would be funneled to government officials.

Nearly $80 million of that money went to companies that Glencore used to secure it business advantages through bribes in West Africa.

"Glencore concealed the bribe payments by entering into sham consulting agreements, paying inflated invoices and using intermediary companies to make corrupt payments to foreign officials," the Justice Department explained in a release.

The Justice Department also accused Glencore's U.S. subsidiary of manipulating oil prices at the Port of Los Angles, the busiest U.S. shipping port by container volume, and the Port of Houston, the busiest U.S. port by foreign waterborne tonnage, from about January 2011 to August 2019.

Prosecutors said the company artificially affected the price of oil set by two benchmark price assessments published by S&P Global Platts in order to increase its profits while reducing its costs.

The company was accused of submitting offers to buy fuel with the purpose of pushing down the price assessment, officials said.

"The bids and offers were not submitted to Platts for any legitimate economic reason by Glencore Ltd. employees, but rather for the purpose of artificially affecting the relevant Platts price assessment so that the benchmark price, and hence the price of fuel oil that Glencore Ltd. bought from, and sold to, another party, did not reflect legitimate forces of supply and demand," the Justice Department said.

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As part of the agreement, Glencore will retain an independent compliance monitor for three years.

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