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Oil traders indicted in alleged kickback scheme
HOUSTON (Reuters) - A former employee at LyondellBasell Industries and two international oil traders have been indicted in an alleged multimillion-dollar kickback scheme, the U.S. Attorney's Office announced in a news release Friday.
Jonathan Paul Barnes, 55, of Bellaire, Texas; Clyde Meltzer, 64, of Livingston, New Jersey, and Bernard Langley, 53, of the United Kingdom were charged with conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering in an indictment returned December 7, 2010 and partially unsealed Friday, the news release said.
The indictment accuses Barnes of defrauding Houston Refinery LP, a subsidiary of LyondellBasell, by having it pay $80 million above market prices for shipping of crude oil from Venezuela between 2006 and 2010 in exchange for kickbacks. Barnes was employed at the time by Houston Refinery LP.
Two of the entities that allegedly paid kickbacks, Camac International Ltd and Fossil Energy Resources Ltd, were offshore operations controlled by Meltzer and Langley, the news release said. They funneled kickbacks through a Swiss bank account to conceal their origin, the release added.
Attorneys for the three men could not be reached immediately.
The indictment remains sealed as to others who are charged but are not yet in custody, the news release said. Barnes has been in custody since November 12, Meltzer and Langley since December 9, the release added.
"This matter was uncovered by the company about a year ago," LyondellBasell spokesman David Harpole said in a statement. "We launched an internal investigation into overcharges for the cost of crude oil shipments.
"The company took immediate steps at that time to address the matter, including termination of the employee who was implicated in the activities. We later turned this matter over to the U.S. Attorney's Office," Harpole said.
"We will pursue appropriate avenues for recovery of any loss incurred by the company."
All three men face charges of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud, two counts of wire fraud, conspiracy to commit international money-laundering and four counts of money-laundering, the news release said.
In addition, Barnes is charged with passport fraud and bulk cash smuggling.
If convicted, the men could face up to 20 years in prison on each count of fraud and money laundering. If convicted, Barnes could face up to 10 years in prison on the passport fraud charge and five years on the cash smuggling charge.
Maximum fines for the offenses upon conviction are $250,000 per count except for money-laundering, which could result in a fine of $500,000 or twice the value of the laundered funds.
(Reporting by Bruce Nichols; Editing by Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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