Man Pleads Guilty in New York to PetroEcuador-Related Money Laundering

NEW YORK, Apr 6 (Reuters) – A man pleaded guilty Tuesday in New York to one count of conspiracy to launder money in connection with what prosecutors described as a plot to bribe Ecuadorian government officials and win business with the state oil company Petroecuador.

Raymond Kohut, 68, pleaded guilty to US District Judge Eric Vitaliano in Brooklyn.

Kohut, who said he is not a US citizen, faces up to 20 years in prison and has agreed to the criminal forfeiture of $ 2.2 million.

Mark Bini, a US Department of Justice prosecutor, said Kohut worked for a European energy operating firm with subsidiaries in the United States and along with others was part of a bribery and money laundering conspiracy to pay $ 22 million. Ecuadorian officials.

Kohut told the judge that he worked in the Bahamas as an employee and contractor for the Gunvor Group, based in Geneva and several commercial offices around the world, and that the bribes were linked to the purchase of crude products.

“I know what I was doing was wrong and illegal,” he acknowledged.

Kohut’s attorneys did not immediately respond to requests for comment after the guilty plea hearing.

Petroecuador said in a statement that the Gunvor company was excluded from its list of suppliers and “will no longer be invited, nor will it be able to participate in international competitions” carried out by the Ecuadorian state company, after the acts of corruption revealed.

The oil company also requested international criminal assistance from the Ecuadorian Prosecutor’s Office to have more information on the investigation carried out by the US justice on the case.

The Justice Department has conducted a long-running investigation into bribery and money laundering involving Petroecuador.

He has prosecuted former officials of the Ecuadorian state company who received and concealed bribes, businessmen and contractors who paid the bribes, and intermediaries who used US and foreign companies and bank accounts to facilitate the bribes.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; edited in Spanish by Ricardo Figueroa, Alexandra Valencia and Carlos Serrano)