Former CEO of SBM Offshore gets jail time for paying bribes
SBM Offshore’s former CEO Tony Mace has been sentenced to three years in prison for his involvement in an international bribery conspiracy.
Mace, a UK-citizen, who left the CEO position of the FPSO supplier SBM Offshore back in December 2011, was sentenced to 36 months in jail and a fine of $150,000.
He previously admitted to being involved in a scheme to bribe foreign government officials in Brazil, Angola, and Equatorial Guinea which violates the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
According to admissions made in connection with his plea agreement, Mace acknowledged that, before he became CEO, other employees of SBM entered into an agreement to pay bribes to foreign officials including at Brazil’s state-controlled oil company Petrobras, Angola’s state-owned oil company Sonangol, and Equatorial Guinea’s state-owned oil company GEPetrol.
Mace admitted that he joined the conspiracy by authorizing payments in furtherance of the bribery scheme and deliberately avoided learning that those payments were bribes.
In particular, Mace maintained a spreadsheet reflecting payments to five individuals. He admitted that even though he was aware there was a high risk those individuals were Equatorial Guinean officials, he authorized SBM to make over $16 million in payments to those individuals.
Mace further continued a practice that was instituted before he became CEO by splitting payments to SBM’s Brazilian intermediary by paying a portion of the intermediary’s commission to an account in Brazil and another portion of the agent’s commission to accounts in Switzerland held in the name of shell companies.
In his plea deal, he stated that he deliberately avoided learning that the ultimate recipients of the payments that he authorized to the shell companies were Petrobras officials.
EX-SBM sales exec gets 30 months behind bars
Another man implicated in the scandal, Robert Zubiate, a former sales and marketing executive at SBM USA, was sentenced to serve 30 months in prison and a fine of $50,000.
Zubiate, like Mace, pleaded guilty in late 2017 to bribery charges. According to his plea, from 1996 until 2012, he and others used a third-party sales agent to pay bribes to foreign officials at Petrobras in exchange for those officials’ assisting SBM and SBM USA with winning lucrative offshore oil projects from Petrobras.
Zubiate also admitted engaging in a kickback scheme with the bribe-paying sales agent for SBM and its SBM USA.
Assistant Attorney General, Brian Benczkowski, said: “Anthony Mace and Robert Zubiate played key roles in a massive bribery scheme that involved the payment of millions of dollars to public officials in exchange for lucrative oil-services contracts. Their actions rewarded corrupt officials’ greed and tilted the playing field against honest, law-abiding companies. Their sentences should serve as a warning to corporate executives everywhere: if you pay bribes to advance your business interests, we will catch you, and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”
Their sentences should serve as a warning to corporate executives everywhere.
U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick of the Southern District of Texas added: “Pursuing corrupt companies and individuals who misuse our financial system to commit FCPA violations represents our commitment to keeping the integrity of American democracy in place both here and abroad. We will continue to prosecute such cases involving wrongdoing for corporate crimes and greed.”
It is worth noting that SBM entered into a $238-million-dollar three-year deferred prosecution agreement with the United States in November 2017 over its role in the conspiracy. Its subsidiary, SBM USA, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.
To remind, SBM in November 2014 reached a $240 million out-of-court settlement with the Dutch Public Prosecutor’s Office (Openbaar Ministerie) over the inquiry into alleged improper payments.
The Department of Justice has once already investigated this case but decided to close it in 2014 based upon a lack of US jurisdiction, but reserved the right to reopen the investigation if new facts came to light.
However, it then in 2016 reopened the investigation following a case in Brazil, when the Brazilian Public Prosecutor’s Office made bribery allegations regarding several people in Brazil and abroad, including some (then) current and former employees of SBM Offshore, of whom one is a U.S. citizen.
Settlement in Brazil
SBM Offshore in September 2018 reached a deal with the Brazilian prosecutor under which the prosecutor will refrain from initiating new legal proceedings against the company related to legacy bribery issues in Brazil.
The agreement provided – in addition to the amounts agreed in the previously signed leniency agreement – for the payment of an additional fine by SBM Offshore of $48 million. The additional fine is to be paid to Petrobras in installments: an upfront payment of BRL 60 million, with seven BRL 20 million installments thereafter.
This additional agreement brings the total amount of the provision established by the company in respect of legacy issues in Brazil from $299 million to $347 million.