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Press Release

Ex-Energy Trader for Vitol Convicted of Foreign Bribery and Money Laundering Scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Eastern District of New York
Javier Aguilar Conspired to Pay More than $1 Million in Bribes to Officials in Ecuador and Mexico

BROOKLYN, NY – Javier Aguilar, a former trader at Vitol, Inc. (Vitol), was convicted today by a federal jury in Brooklyn on all counts of a superseding indictment relating to violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by paying bribes to officials of Petroecuador, the Ecuadorian state-owned oil company.  Aguilar was also convicted of laundering money used to bribe Ecuadorian officials and officials at PEMEX Procurement International (PPI), a wholly owned affiliate of the Mexican state-owned oil company, PEMEX.  The verdict followed an eight-week trial before Senior United States District Judge Eric N. Vitaliano.  When sentenced, Aguilar faces up to 30 years in prison.

Breon Peace, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of New York, Nicole M. Argentieri, Acting Assistant Attorney General of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, and Jeffrey B. Veltri, Special Agent-in-Charge, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Miami Field Office (FBI), announced the verdict.

“Today’s verdict represents another victory in this Office’s commitment to rooting out corruption in the international marketplace,” stated United States Attorney Peace.  “The defendant and his co-conspirators sought to enrich themselves through criminal backroom deals.  The people of Ecuador and Mexico deserved better and companies that play by the rules should know that the process is not rigged.  The Department of Justice and my Office will continue to prioritize holding to account individuals who enrich themselves through bribery.” 

“Javier Aguilar bribed officials at state-owned oil and gas companies in Ecuador and Mexico using shell companies and sham invoices to obtain business for Vitol, Inc., where he worked as an oil and gas trader.  With today’s verdict, the jury has held him accountable for his role in a sophisticated bribery and money laundering scheme that netted Vitol hundreds of millions of dollars in contracts,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division.  “Foreign bribery erodes the rule of law, disadvantages honest companies, and emboldens corrupt government officials.  The Criminal Division will continue to vigorously pursue wrongdoers who bribe foreign officials and bring them to justice.”

“As demonstrated by this case, the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act has a long reach,” stated FBI Special Agent-in-Charge Veltri.  “Aguilar’s egregious attempt to bribe officials in Ecuador and Mexico failed and he will now face tough penalties. I want to commend our partners at the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and at the Department of Justice for their close cooperation on this case.”

As proven at trial, Aguilar paid more than $1 million in bribes to Petroecuador and PPI officials to obtain lucrative contracts for Vitol.

Between 2015 and 2020, Aguilar was a trader in Vitol’s Houston office.  As a part of the scheme, Aguilar and his co-conspirators agreed to bribe senior Ecuadorian officials to obtain a $300 million contract to purchase fuel oil for Vitol.  Aguilar and his co-conspirators used another Middle Eastern state-owned entity to circumvent Petroecuador’s restrictions on contracts with private companies.  In return for the promise and payments of bribes, the Ecuadorian officials then ensured that the Middle Eastern state-owned entity and Vitol were awarded the contract.  Following the 2017 Ecuadorean presidential election, the officials who received bribes were replaced by new senior officials.  To ensure continuity under the then-existing fuel oil contract and to obtain additional business, Aguilar and his co-conspirators agreed to bribe them as well.

To conceal the scheme, Aguilar and his co-conspirators used a series of fake contracts, sham invoices and shell entities incorporated in Curacao, Panama, and Cayman Islands.  The defendant also used alias email accounts rather than his Vitol email to communicate with his co-conspirators.  

The evidence at trial also demonstrated that Aguilar used the same system of shell entities and sham invoices to launder bribe payments to two officials at PEMEX Procurement International.  In total, Aguilar paid approximately $600,000 in bribes to these officials to obtain numerous contracts for Vitol to supply hundreds of millions of dollars of ethane gas to PEMEX.   

The evidence at trial included testimony from 10 witnesses, including three of the former Mexican and Ecuadorian officials who received bribes from the defendant, as well as consultants who facilitated the bribes, and an intermediary who laundered the bribes for the defendant; bribe payments ledgers; emails, including from the defendant’s alias email accounts; recorded calls and meetings; travel records; and bank records showing how the defendant and his co-conspirators moved money to bribe officials through offshore shell companies.  In one of the recorded phone calls played at trial, the defendant told a co-conspirator that his money launderer in Curacao “has to make up some fake contracts.” 

Aguilar faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each of the FCPA counts and 20 years in prison on the money laundering count.

Seven of the defendant’s co-conspirators have pleaded guilty to their role in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing.  These individuals have agreed to forfeit more than $63 million. 

In December 2020, Vitol admitted to bribing officials in Ecuador, Mexico, and Brazil in violation of the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA.  Vitol entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section (MLARS) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Eastern District of New York.  As a part of the resolution, Vitol agreed to pay a combined $135 million in penalties as part of a coordinated resolution with the Department of Justice, the Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) and authorities in Brazil.

The investigation was conducted by FBI Miami’s International Corruption Squad. 

The government’s case is being handled by the Business and Securities Fraud Section of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York and the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and MLARS.  Assistant United States Attorneys Jonathan P. Lax, Matthew R. Galeotti, and Nick M. Axelrod of the Eastern District of New York are prosecuting the case with Assistant Chiefs Derek J. Ettinger and Jonathan P. Robell and Trial Attorney Clayton P. Solomon of the Fraud Section, Deputy Chief Adam J. Schwartz and Trial Attorney D. Hunter Smith of MLARS, and Paralegal Specialist Peyton Jefferson.  The MLARS Special Financial Investigations Unit and the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided substantial assistance in this case. 

The Defendant:

Age:  49
Houston, Texas

E.D.N.Y. Docket No. 20-CR-390 (ENV)


John Marzulli
Danielle Blustein Hass
U.S. Attorney's Office
(718) 254-6323

Updated February 28, 2024

Financial Fraud