On September 22, 2020, Sargeant Marine Inc., a Florida-based company that sells, markets, and transports asphalt and bitumen products, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
According to the company’s admissions, Sargeant Marine paid bribes worth millions of dollars to foreign officials in Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela over a period of eight years beginning in 2010 in order to obtain contracts to purchase or sell asphalt. In Ecuador and Venezuela, the bribery schemes involved officials at state-owned oil companies, and in Brazil the company admitted to paying bribes to a minister in the Brazilian government, a member of the country’s parliament, and senior executives in the Brazilian state-owned oil company. In order to conceal the bribes, Sargeant Marine entered into fictitious consulting agreements with intermediaries, wired bribe payments to offshore bank accounts held in the name of shell companies, assigned code names to oil company officials, and labeled improperly-obtained inside information “chocolates.”
Sargeant Marine has agreed to pay a criminal fine of $16.6 million as part of its guilty plea. Six individuals have pleaded guilty in connection with Sargeant Marine’s bribery scheme, and a seventh individual has been charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering for his alleged role in the Venezuela bribery scheme.