Trafigura, a major shipowner, trader and charterer, has resolved a US probe into historic bribes made by former employees or agents in Brazil.

The Swiss group said the US Department of Justice (DoJ) had been investigating events that took place 10 or more years ago.

“This conduct was and is inconsistent with the company’s principles, contractual terms and code of conduct,” Trafigura said of the case.

Under the terms of the plea agreement, Trafigura Beheer, the parent company of Trafigura Group during the relevant period, will pay a total of $127m.

The DoJ credited Trafigura “because it cooperated with the investigation and demonstrated recognition and affirmative acceptance of responsibility”.

Trafigura’s proactive decision to end the use of third-party agents for new business in 2019 was also recognised, as was its development and implementation of “enhanced risk-based policies and procedures” related to anti-corruption and compliance monitoring.

Chief executive Jeremy Weir said: “These historical incidents do not reflect Trafigura’s values nor the conduct we expect from every employee.

“They are particularly disappointing given our sustained efforts over many years to embed a culture of responsible conduct at Trafigura.”

In 2018, it was reported that Trafigura was being investigated by Brazilian police over payments to Petrobras officials, opening a new chapter in the country’s Operation Car Wash scandal.

Police alleged that Petrobras officials had arranged fuel trades at higher than market prices, banking the difference.

Weir added: “We are pleased the DoJ recognised the steps we have taken to invest in our compliance function: enhancing our policies, procedures, processes and controls and from 2019, prohibiting the use of third parties for business origination.”

Cases ongoing

Trafigura has also been seeking to resolve investigations by regulatory authorities in Brazil and Switzerland.

The trader remains involved in a civil case in Brazil.

And in December, the group and former chief operating officer Mike Wainwright were charged in Switzerland with paying bribes to an oil company boss in Angola.

An unnamed former chief executive of state-owned Sonangol is alleged to have pocketed more than $5m in return for preferential vessel chartering and bunkering deals, according to the Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland.

Indictments were filed in the country’s Federal Criminal Court.

The charges relate to the period between April 2009 and October 2011.

The former Sonangol boss and a go-between have also been charged.

The Office of the Attorney General claims the Sonangol CEO received more than €4.3m ($4.7m) through bank transfers and $604,000 in cash.

Trafigura is charged with failing to take all reasonable and necessary organisational measures to prevent the payment of these bribes.

Wainwright is alleged to have granted some of the payments “by omission”.

In return, Trafigura is alleged to have gained preferential treatment to develop ship chartering and bunkering activities with Sonangol.

This involved eight ship charters and a bunkering contract in 2009 and 2010.

“Thanks to the income that arose from these contracts, the Trafigura Group is alleged to have made profits amounting to this day to $143.7m,” the Office of the Attorney General added.

Major shareholder Wainwright was due to retire as the group’s chief transformation officer by this month.

Trafigura intends to defend itself.

Wainwright rejected the charges against him and will also fight against them.