Oil trader admits to role in major Ecuador bribery scheme

Oil trader admits to role in major Ecuador bribery scheme

MIAMI (AP) — An employee of a European trading company pleaded guilty Tuesday to helping pay more than $22 million in bribes to high-level officials in Ecuador in exchange for contracts with the state-run oil company.

As part of his plea deal in Brooklyn federal court, Raymond Kohut agreed to forfeit $2.2 million in proceeds from the bribery scheme, which he said ran from at least 2012 to August 2020.

Kohut faces up to 20 years in prison. The 68-year-old said he is not a U.S. citizen but entered his guilty plea from Long Island, New York.

It’s unclear who else benefited from the scheme. Prosecutors said only that the bribes were made on behalf of a European trading company with subsidiaries in the U.S. and elsewhere.

In a statement read in court, Kohut said at the time of the bribery scheme he was working in the Bahamas as an employee of a trading company whose name was not disclosed.

He said as part of his job, he approved large payments to two consultants with the understanding that some of their fees would be used to bribe Petroecuador officials in exchange for contracts to purchase oil products.

He said some of the payments were wired from Singapore and passed through banks in New York. He also held meetings in the U.S. with a Petroecuador official.

“I knew what I was doing was wrong and illegal,” Kohut told Judge Eric Vitaliano.

Updated : 2021-04-16 00:28 GMT+08:00