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NGOs Say US Should Stop Backing Trafigura After Bribery Charges

NGOs Say US Should Stop Backing Trafigura After Bribery Charges
The Trafigura logo Photographer: Fabrice Offrini/AFP/Getty Images

A group of non-governmental organizations called on the US Export-Import Bank to stop providing financial support to Trafigura Group after the trading house and one of its longtime top executives were charged over allegations of corruption.

In a letter seen by Bloomberg News, the NGOs ask that the Ex-Im bank “immediately terminate its support for Trafigura and in doing so send a strong signal that the US government is not willing to work with entities under investigation for fraud or bribery.” It is signed by Friends of the Earth United States, Oil Change International and Public Citizen.

Trafigura last year announced it had received $400 million in financing backed by insurance from US Ex-Im bank that would be used to buy US liquefied natural gas to supply to customers primarily in Europe.

The call to end that support comes after Switzerland’s federal prosecutor last month filed corruption charges against Trafigura and executive Mike Wainwright — who as chief operating officer has for more than a decade been one of the company’s most senior figures. The Swiss prosecutor alleged that the trading house paid about $5 million in bribes to an Angolan official between 2009 and 2011.

The company also last month revealed a US Department of Justice investigation into “improper payments” in Brazil, while a separate court case this month has included testimony from a former top Ecuadorian oil official that Trafigura paid him bribes.

In the letter, the NGOs say that the charge against Wainwright “shows that it is not a few mid-level bad apples who are responsible, but possibly a corporate-sanctioned, decades long practice of encouraging corruption to increase profit.”

Trafigura has said previously, of the cases involving Angola and Brazil, that it regrets incidents “which breached our code of conduct and are contrary to our values.” Wainwright denies the charges against him.

The corruption allegations against Trafigura are far from unique in the commodity trading industry. Its two main rivals, Vitol Group and Glencore Plc, both admitted multiple instances of bribery to end US investigations in recent years, with little obvious impact on their ability to do deals around the world or borrow large sums from banks.

Trafigura has pioneered the use of government guarantees to expand its access to cheap financing, in the past 18 months striking deals backed by the export credit agencies of Germany, Italy and Saudi Arabia, as well as the US.

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