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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of Texas

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, September 28, 2018

Oil Services CEO and Executive Sentenced for Roles in Foreign Bribery Scheme

HOUSTON - A former CEO and former executive of an oil services company were sentenced to prison today for their involvement in an international bribery conspiracy. 

U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, Assistant Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations’ (HSI) Houston Field Office made the announcement.

Anthony “Tony” Mace, 66, of the United Kingdom was the former CEO of SBM Offshore N.V. (SBM), a Dutch oil services company and a former Board Member of SBM’s U.S.-based subsidiary, SBM Offshore USA Inc. (SBM USA). He was sentenced to serve 36 months in prison and ordered to pay a fine of $150,000. Robert Zubiate, 66, of Agoura Hills, California, a former sales and marketing executive at SBM USA, was sentenced to 30 months in prison and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.

“Pursuing corrupt companies and individuals who misuse our financial system to commit FCPA violations represents our commitment to keeping the integrity of American democracy in place both here and abroad,” said Patrick. “We will continue to prosecute such cases involving wrongdoing for corporate crimes and greed.”

“Anthony Mace and Robert Zubiate played key roles in a massive bribery scheme that involved the payment of millions of dollars to public officials in exchange for lucrative oil-services contracts,” said Benczkowski. “Their actions rewarded corrupt officials’ greed and tilted the playing field against honest, law-abiding companies. Today they paid a heavy price for their crimes. Their sentences should serve as a warning to corporate executives everywhere: if you pay bribes to advance your business interests, we will catch you and we will prosecute you to the fullest extent of the law.”

 “This case is a prime example of HSI’s enduring commitment to work closely with our foreign law enforcement partners to track down those who seek to gain an unfair competitive advantage in the international marketplace,” said Dawson. “By working together to hold these individuals accountable for their actions, we have taken a significant step to level the playing field for companies and consumers.”

In November 2017, Mace and Zubiate each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with a scheme to bribe foreign government officials in Brazil, Angola and Equatorial Guinea. 

According to admissions made in connection with his plea agreement, Mace acknowledged that prior to his becoming CEO, other employees of SBM entered into an agreement to pay bribes to foreign officials including at Brazil’s state-controlled oil company, Petróleo Brasileiro S.A. (Petrobras); Angola’s state-owned oil company, Sociedade Nacional de Combustíveis de Angola, E.P. (Sonangol); and Equatorial Guinea’s state-owned oil company, Petroléos de Guinea Ecuatorial (GEPetrol). Mace admitted he joined the conspiracy by authorizing payments in furtherance of the bribery scheme and deliberately avoided learning that those payments were bribes. 

In particular, Mace maintained a spreadsheet reflecting payments to five individuals. Mace acknowledged that even though he was aware there was a high risk those individuals were Equatorial Guinean officials, he nevertheless authorized SBM to make over $16 million in payments to those individuals. Mace further continued a practice that was instituted before he became CEO by splitting payments to SBM’s Brazilian intermediary, that is, paying a portion of the intermediary’s commission to an account in Brazil and another portion of the agent’s commission to accounts in Switzerland held in the name of shell companies. Mace deliberately avoided learning the ultimate recipients of the payments that he authorized to the shell companies were Petrobras officials, he admitted.

According to admissions made in connection with Zubiate’s plea, from between 1996 and 2012, Zubiate and others used a third-party sales agent to pay bribes to foreign officials at Petrobras in exchange for those officials’ assisting SBM and SBM USA with winning lucrative offshore oil projects from Petrobras. Zubiate also admitted engaging in a kickback scheme with the bribe-paying sales agent for SBM and its SBM USA.

In November 2017, SBM entered into a $238 million dollar, three-year deferred prosecution agreement with the United States over its role in the conspiracy, while its subsidiary, SBM USA, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.

HSI and IRS-Criminal Investigation conducted the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Elmilady and Trial Attorney Dennis R. Kihm of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance in this matter.

The Department of Justice is grateful to Brazil’s Ministério Público Federal, the Netherlands Public Prosecution Service and Switzerland’s Office of the Attorney General and Federal Office of Justice for providing substantial assistance in gathering evidence during this investigation.

The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters.  Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.

Topic(s): 
Financial Fraud
Public Corruption
Component(s): 
Updated October 1, 2018