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Financial Crimes
09/28/2018

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2 oil services executives sentenced in Houston to federal prison for their roles in foreign bribery scheme

WASHINGTON — A former CEO and former executive of an oil services company were sentenced Friday in Houston, Texas, to federal prison for their roles in an international bribery conspiracy.

This investigation was conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), and IRS’s Criminal Investigation Division.  

Anthony “Tony” Mace, 66, of the United Kingdom, 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), was sentenced to serve three years in federal prison and 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 serve 30 months in prison and to pay a $50,000 fine.

“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 Assistant U.S. Attorney General Brian A. Benczkowski, of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “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.”

“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 U.S. Attorney Ryan K. Patrick, Southern District of Texas. “We will continue to prosecute such cases involving wrongdoing for corporate crimes and greed.”

“This case is a prime example of Homeland Security Investigations’ 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 Special Agent in Charge Mark Dawson, HSI Houston. “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 him becoming CEO, other SBM employees 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 that 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 that 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, 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.

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Last Reviewed/Updated: 10/15/2018