Dec 02, 2020 News
Kaieteur News – SBM Offshore, the Dutch company that is contracted to build two more floating production storage and offloading vessels (oil ships) for Guyana’s Stabroek Block operations, is now facing a probe by the authorities in Switzerland for past cases of corruption.
Even though the cases would have been settled in other nations, the Swiss government is adamant that it wants to do its own probe now, with particular focus on a former SBM employee that was central to the bribery schemes. It did not disclose the name of that person of interest.
Be that as it may, Erik Lagendijk, the Chief Governance and Compliance Officer for SBM was keen to note that the company intends to cooperate with the probe. The employee said, “We did not expect this development in Switzerland…We will engage with the Swiss public prosecutor and seek clarification.”
Since the announcement of the probe, SBM’s shares fell 3.5% on the Amsterdam stock market. During its research on the history of SBM Offshore, Kaieteur News found that more than five years ago, the offshore drilling equipment manufacturer was caught red handed in damning acts of bribery in Brazil, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Iraq. Details of the case note that SBM executives bribed officials with about US$180M over a period of about a decade beginning in the mid-1990s. These bribes resulted in the company benefitting from approximately US$2.8B in profits. Subsequent lawsuits led by the public prosecutor of its home country, the Netherlands, the US Department of Justice, and the Brazilian Federal Prosecutor, resulted in millions of dollars in fines being paid.
When SBM’s US subsidiary was hauled before the courts for breach of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), it pleaded guilty and agreed to settle criminal charges of bribing officials in the five countries. It paid a US$238 million penalty.
In Brazil, the company agreed to enter a settlement so that it could end all anti-corruption investigations against its subsidiary there. The US$189M settlement was done so that it could not only kill the probe into the company’s role, but also allow it to participate again in future tenders. The investigation in Brazil was centered on allegations that SBM was one of several companies that paid massive bribes in exchange for inflated contracts to service Petrobras, Brazil’s National Oil Company.
In the case of its home country, the Netherlands authorities launched its own investigations and got SBM to pay a US$40M fine as well as a US$200M disgorgement (having to do with repayment of ill-gotten gains) via an out-of-court settlement. Following this, SBM said it enhanced its anti-corruption compliance programme and related internal controls to prevent a reoccurrence of any kind.
Owing to the fact that the Netherlands is considered one of the least corrupt countries within the European Union (EU), the authorities which settled with SBM were highly criticized by transparency bodies there for not going forward with the prosecution of such a high-profile corruption case, among others.
It was believed that settlement lends to the perception of backroom politics while providing the opportunity for the authorities to abuse their power by allowing settlements in cases where the suspect has more to gain by settling quickly.
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