A former employee of the Geneva-based commodities and energy trading firm, Gunvor, said he paid bribes to the president of the Republic of Congo via a presidential aide and Belgian firm Semlex to win Congolese oil contracts, according to a Swiss prosecution document.
The employee said he also paid other bribes on behalf of Gunvor to a state oil official and presidential aides to secure Ivory Coast oil deals.
Pascal Collard, who was sentenced to an 18-month suspended prison term by a Swiss court on Aug. 28 for corruption related to these oil deals, made the accusations in a plea bargain that meant he avoided serving time in jail or paying a fine.
Congo Communications Minister Thierry Moungalla, who acts as government spokesman, denied the allegations, saying Collard “was not able to provide any evidence.
This is a baseless accusation.” An Ivory Coast government spokesman declined to comment, Reuters said.
Collard made payments worth more than $15 million to secure Congolese oil deals. The payments were made to Congo’s president and his family members via intermediary companies, including Petrolia E&P SA, a firm owned by Congolese presidential aide Maxime Gandzion, and Semlex, the document said.
Collard, whose plea bargain was drawn up by Swiss federal prosecutors, said managers at Gunvor knew about the payments and approved them to win the deals between 2009 and 2011.
Reuters said it obtained a copy of the final plea bargain document from the court. It was received by the court in early July and approved by the court on Aug. 28.
Swiss prosecutors have said they are investigating whether Gunvor had any role in any corrupt practices or failures in corporate responsibility related to the deals.
A Gunvor spokesman said: “No member of management knew of the ex-employee’s corruption scheme or his efforts to defraud the company.” He said the firm had updated compliance controls since then and no longer did business in the two countries.
The trading firm fired Collard, a trader and business developer, in 2012 and filed a criminal complaint against him, accusing him of fraud and embezzlement.
A lawyer for Belgian passport maker and biometrics firm Semlex also declined to comment on the allegations that it facilitated payments in Congo and the Ivory Coast.
The document did not address whether Semlex was being investigated or accused of wrongdoing by the Swiss authorities.
The plea bargain, whose authors include federal prosecutors Gerard Sautebin and Anne-Claude Scheidegger, outlined “corrupt agreements with foreign public agents” relating to Gunvor’s business in Congo and Ivory Coast, both oil producers.