Energy trader Gunvor Group says U.S. CFTC investigating Ecuador deals

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Signage is seen outside of the US Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in Washington, D.C., U.S., August 30, 2020. REUTERS/Andrew Kelly

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  • Gunvor posts net profit of $213 mln in H1 2021
  • EBITDA at $672 mln in H1
  • U.S. DOJ, Switzerland also investigating Gunvor's Ecuador deals
  • Gunvor says has not yet made provisions for investigations

LONDON, Sept 28 (Reuters) - Global energy trader Gunvor Group (GGL.UL) is under investigation by the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) in relation to its dealings in Ecuador, the company said in its first half 2021 results.

Earlier this year, former employee Raymond Kohut pleaded guilty to involvement in what the U.S. Department of Justice called a scheme to bribe Ecuadorean government officials to win business from state-controlled oil company Petroecuador. read more

Swiss prosecutors said in June they were also investigating Gunvor's dealings in Ecuador. Gunvor is based in Geneva. read more

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"Gunvor is not aware of the full scope of the DOJ investigation. Accordingly, there can be no assurances about the direction of the investigation," the company said in the results.

"In connection with the existing DOJ investigation in relation to Ecuador, the U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission is also conducting an investigation."

The CFTC, which regulates futures and options trading, did not immediately respond when contacted by phone and e-mail.

The firm, which said it continues to cooperate with U.S. authorities, said it has not recorded any provisions in its accounts in relation to the three probes.

Privately held Gunvor, one of the world's biggest independent oil traders, does not typically publish detailed financial results. Its first half results were made public on Tuesday following a rare bond issue earlier this month.

Gunvor reported a net profit of $213 million for the period compared with $231 million in the first half of 2020. Revenues for the period were $48 billion up from $24 billion in 2020. The firm said it had no impairments during the first half.

The company's core earnings, or EBITDA, were $672 million for the first half. Last year, its full year EBITDA was $1.8 billion.

Its traded volumes rose by 28.6% to 118 million tonnes from 91 million tonnes with crude oil and natural gas being the key drivers. Natural gas accounted for 40% of the total volume, up 27% from 2020. Crude accounted for 23%.

Western Europe was the biggest trade region, accounting for 52% of sales, followed by North America at 22%.

Gunvor's former employee, Kohut, worked out of its Houston and Bahamas offices between 2009 and 2019. Kohut's lawyer did not immediately comment.

He was part of a conspiracy that led to the payment of at least $22 million in bribes to officials of Petroecuador in a scheme that ran from 2012 to August 2020, according to his guilty plea. Gunvor marketed and sold Ecuadorean oil via contracts with at least two Asian state-owned oil and gas firms that had provided loans to Petroecuador.

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Reporting by Julia Payne, additional reporting by Sabrina Valle; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Cynthia Osterman

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