Skip to main content
Press Release

Houston oil trader charged in international bribery scheme

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Texas

HOUSTON – A 49-year-old Texas man and former employee for Vitol Inc. is set to appear in federal court for allegedly conspiring to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and for allegedly violating the FCPA, the Travel Act and the money laundering statutes in connection with a scheme involving Mexican government officials. 

Javier Aguilar is expected to make his initial appearance before U.S. Magistrate Judge Yvonne Ho in Houston at 2 p.m. today.

The five-count indictment, returned Aug. 3, alleges Aguilar was a former manager and oil trader for Vitol Inc., the U.S. affiliate of the Vitol group of companies which together form one of the largest energy trading firms in the world. The former employee allegedly agreed with others to bribe Mexican officials in order to win business advantages related to contracts with the Mexican government instrumentality, PEMEX Procurement International (PPI). He is also charged with money laundering in connection with the scheme. 

Between August 2017 and July 2020, the charges allege Aguilar and others knowingly, willfully and corruptly offered and paid bribes to and for the benefit of Mexican officials. He allegedly intended to obtain and retain business for Vitol related to Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), a state-owned oil company of Mexico, and PPI, a wholly-owned and controlled subsidiary of PEMEX with its principal place of business in Houston.

Aguilar allegedly met with procurement managers at PPI between September 2017 and April 2018 and agreed to pay bribes for confidential, inside information to assist Vitol in winning business from PPI, including a contract to supply ethane to PEMEX through PPI. In particular, Aguilar allegedly agreed to make payments totaling approximately $600,000 in order to assist Vitol in winning the ethane contract.

To promote the bribery scheme and to conceal the proceeds derived from it, Aguilar and his co-conspirators caused the bribes to be paid through a series of transactions and shell companies, according to the charges.

Aguilar is charged with violating the FCPA and conspiracy to do so, which both carry a possible five-year-federal prison sentence as does a conviction of violation of the Travel Act. If convicted of either of the two money laundering charges, he could receive up to 20 years in prison.  

The FBI’s International Corruption Unit - Miami Field Office conducted the investigation.

Deputy Chief Suzanne Elmilady and Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Sherin Daniel for the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case along with Assistant Chiefs Derek Ettinger and Jon Robell and Trial Attorney Clayton Solomon of the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Deputy Chief Adam Schwartz and Trial Attorney D. Hunter Smith from the Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Section with assistance from AUSAs Jonathan P. Lax and Matthew R. Galeotti from the Eastern District of New York.

An indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct, not evidence. A defendant is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law.

Updated August 21, 2023

Public Corruption
Financial Fraud