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Swiss firm fined over oil-for-food kickbacks
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10:22, November 22, 2007

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Swiss-based oil trader Vitol has been fined 17.5 million U.S. dollars after pleading guilty in New York to paying kickbacks to Saddam Hussein's regime in Iraq, the Swissinfo website reported on Wednesday.

Vitol, which had revenues of 114 billion U.S. dollars in 2006, avoided sanctions against individual executives in the case before New York State's Supreme Court, according to the report.

The oil-trading firm is one of 37 Swiss or Swiss-based companies named in a U.N.-backed report for allegedly making illicit payments to Iraq in the oil-for-food program.

New York prosecutors alleged that Vitol, through an associated entity or third parties, paid 13 million U.S. dollars in kickbacks to Iraqi officials in connection with oil purchases from June 2001to September 2002, but allowed false representations to be made to the U.N. that no kickbacks were paid.

Vitol's case is one of several before the U.S. courts recently that are the result of a wide-ranging criminal probe into the oil-for-food program.

Another Swiss firm, Lucerne-based Trafigura, pleaded guilty before a Texas court in May 2006 to making kickback payments and agreed to pay a fine of 20 million U.S. dollars.

The 60 billion-U.S.-dollar oil program was set up by the U.N. to ease the effect of six years of international sanctions on Iraq following the invasion in Kuwait.

It allowed the government of Iraq to sell oil in exchange for food, medical supplies and other humanitarian needs.

Companies based in Switzerland played a prominent role in the oil trade with Iraq in the embargo years. Swiss-based oil-trading companies bought 3.5 billion-U.S.-dollar worth of oil direct from Iraq.

Source: Xinhua/Agencies

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