Former Gunvor employee to take plea deal in Congo bribery case - lawyers

LONDON, Aug 15 (Reuters) - A former employee at global energy trader Gunvor Group has agreed to a deal with Swiss prosecutors in which he will admit to paying bribes to officials in Congo Republic and Ivory Coast to secure oil deals and could testify against others, the former employee’s lawyers said on Wednesday.

The deal called an “accelerated proceeding” under Swiss law is similar to a plea bargain. As part of the bargain, the former employee known as Pascal C. will not serve jail time and will not pay a fine.

The plea, which would still need to be confirmed by a federal Swiss tribunal on Aug. 28, states that other Gunvor executives were aware of the transactions and recipients, something Gunvor has always denied.

Prosecutors are already pursuing parallel investigations related to Gunvor’s Congo dealings.

“The details in the document aren’t something new. Pascal agrees he did this but others in the company, including top executives, were aware. The deal opens the door for these other people in the company to be indicted,” his lawyers Matteo Pedrazzini and Delphine Jobin said.

The Office of the Attorney General of Switzerland declined to comment.

The deal relates to a money laundering investigation that began in 2011. A year later, Gunvor accused the former employee of fraud and embezzlement relating to the firm’s Congo dealings, and fired him.

“This is a one-sided procedure in which the ex-employee struck a plea bargain deal to protect his own interests. Gunvor was not a party to the special proceedings... and was therefore unable to defend itself at any stage. We remain confident in this 10-year old matter,” a spokesman for Gunvor said.

The firm said it had long-since overhauled its compliance rules and stopped crude trading in the two West African countries. (Reporting By Julia Payne, Additional reporting by Michael Shields in Zurich; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle)