GENEVA – Swiss federal prosecutors on Tuesday said they have indicted a former employee of oil trading company Gunvor over bribes paid to obtain access to the Republic of Congo's petroleum market more than a decade ago.
The attorney general's office said the indictment follows an eight-year investigation, during which the company itself was ordered to pay 94 million Swiss francs ($94 million) in 2019 over the bribery allegations.
The suspect, who wasn't identified by name, was responsible for Gunvor's financial matters in Congo-Brazzaville between June 2010 and December 2011, and is accused of “actively participating in the bribery of foreign public officials,” the attorney general's office said in a statement.
A spokesman for the company declined to comment.
The 2019 decision that penalized Gunvor included nearly 90 million francs — a sum said to be close to the amount of profits the company had earned from the bribery operations in the African country — as well as 4 million francs in fines, 1 million below the maximum allowed in such cases under Swiss law.
Gunvor was co-founded by Swedish oil magnate Torbjörn Törnqvist, its current chairman, and Gennady Timchenko, an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin who is no longer affiliated with it.
The company website says Timchenko's shares, in anticipation of “potential economic sanctions,” were sold to Törnqvist in March 2014 — as Russia moved to annex the Crimean Peninsula from Ukraine.
The next day, the U.S. government announced sanctions against Russian interests, including Timchenko himself.
Gunvor has since stopped its operations in the Republic of Congo, and said it has improved its compliance programs.
Last year, the firm posted revenues of $150 billion, a more than 40% increase from 2021 and up from $50 billion in 2020, according to its 2023 brochure.
Gunvor's main trading office is in Geneva, but its headquarters are in Nicosia, Cyprus.