An oil trader from Houston, Texas has been charged in an international bribery scheme involving Mexican government officials. The 49-year-old man, Javier Aguilar, is accused of conspiring to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) as well as the Travel Act and money laundering statutes. Aguilar, a former employee of Vitol Inc., is alleged to have bribed Mexican officials in order to gain business advantages related to contracts with PEMEX Procurement International (PPI), a subsidiary of the state-owned oil company of Mexico. If convicted, Aguilar faces a possible five-year prison sentence for violating the FCPA and the Travel Act, and up to 20 years in prison for money laundering charges.
Charges and Initial Appearance
Javier Aguilar, a former employee of Vitol Inc., is facing charges related to an international bribery scheme. He is set to appear in federal court for his initial appearance. The charges against Aguilar include conspiring to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), as well as violating the FCPA, the Travel Act, and the money laundering statutes. The indictment was returned on August 3 and includes five counts. Aguilar will appear before U.S. Magistrate Judge Yvonne Ho in Houston.
Background on Javier Aguilar and Vitol Inc.
Javier Aguilar is a 49-year-old Texas man who worked as a manager and oil trader for Vitol Inc., the U.S. affiliate of the Vitol group of companies. Vitol Inc. is one of the largest energy trading firms in the world. Aguilar’s former position at Vitol Inc. is central to the alleged bribery scheme involving Mexican government officials.
Bribing Mexican Officials for Business Advantages
According to the indictment, Aguilar and others conspired to bribe Mexican officials in order to gain business advantages related to contracts with PEMEX Procurement International (PPI), a Mexican government instrumentality. The scheme took place between August 2017 and July 2020. Aguilar allegedly intended to secure business for Vitol Inc. related to Petróleos Mexicanos (PEMEX), a state-owned oil company, and its subsidiary, PPI. The indictment alleges that Aguilar met with procurement managers at PPI and offered bribes in exchange for confidential information that would benefit Vitol Inc. This included a contract to supply ethane to PEMEX through PPI.
Payments and Money Laundering
To facilitate the bribery scheme and conceal the proceeds, Aguilar and his co-conspirators engaged in a series of transactions and used shell companies to make payments. The charges against Aguilar include money laundering in connection with the scheme. The indictment alleges that Aguilar and others knowingly and willfully made payments totaling approximately $600,000 to assist Vitol Inc. in winning the ethane contract. Money laundering is a serious offense that carries significant penalties if convicted.
Potential Prison Sentences
If convicted, Aguilar faces potential prison sentences for the charges against him. Violating the FCPA and conspiracy to do so both carry a possible five-year federal prison sentence. The same applies to a conviction of violating the Travel Act. In addition, if Aguilar is convicted of either of the two money laundering charges, he could face up to 20 years in prison.
Investigating Agency and Prosecution Team
The FBI’s International Corruption Unit – Miami Field Office conducted the investigation into Javier Aguilar’s alleged bribery scheme. Deputy Chief Suzanne Elmilady and Assistant U.S. Attorney (AUSA) Sherin Daniel of the Southern District of Texas are prosecuting the case. They are joined by Assistant Chiefs Derek Ettinger and Jon Robell, as well as Trial Attorney Clayton Solomon from the Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. Additionally, Deputy Chief Adam Schwartz and Trial Attorney D. Hunter Smith from the Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Section are involved in the case. Assistance is also provided by AUSAs Jonathan P. Lax and Matthew R. Galeotti from the Eastern District of New York.
Presumption of Innocence
It is important to note that an indictment is a formal accusation of criminal conduct and does not serve as evidence of guilt. Javier Aguilar is presumed innocent unless convicted through due process of law. The legal system operates on the principle of the presumption of innocence, ensuring that individuals are not unjustly punished before their guilt is proven beyond a reasonable doubt.
Related Cases of Public Corruption
The charges against Javier Aguilar are just one example of public corruption cases that have been prosecuted. Corruption involving government officials, both foreign and domestic, undermines trust in public institutions and has far-reaching negative consequences. The Department of Justice is committed to investigating and prosecuting individuals and entities involved in public corruption to uphold the rule of law and protect against abuses of power.
Contact Information for Southern District of Texas
For more information or to contact the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas, refer to the following contact details:
- Address: 1000 Louisiana, Ste. 2300, Houston, TX 77002
- Email: USAO-SDTX Houston
- Phone: 713-567-9000
- Fax Line: 713-718-3300
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