PetroTiger Ltd.’s former co-Chief Executive Officer Knut Hammarskjold pleaded guilty to paying bribes to an official of Colombia’s state-controlled oil company to secure a $39.6 million contract.
Hammarskjold, 42, admitted today in federal court in Camden, New Jersey, that he funneled bribes through the wife of an official at Ecopetrol SA (ECOPETL), Latin America’s second-largest oil company by market value, according to U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to commit wire fraud.
The former general counsel at PetroTiger, Gregory Weisman, 42, pleaded guilty to the same charges on Nov. 8. FCPA charges are pending against Joseph Sigelman, 42, the other former co-CEO of PetroTiger, a British Virgin Islands oil and gas company with subsidiaries and offices in Colombia and New Jersey.
Prosecutors also charged the three men in a kickback scheme involving the purchase of another company on behalf of PetroTiger and several directors, who helped fund the deal. according to admissions Hammarskjold made.
Hammarskjold, who lives in Greenville, South Carolina, faces as long as five years in prison when he’s sentenced on May 16 by U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas. His attorney, Kevin G. Walsh, declined to comment on the plea.
Hammarskjold was charged Nov. 8 and arrested 12 days later when he arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. He remains free on $700,000 bail.
The FCPA bars bars payment of money or anything of value to foreign officials to obtain or retain business.
Hammarskjold was co-CEO from June 2009 to December 2010. He admitted that he, Sigelman and Weisman conspired to obtain kickbacks from the owners of an oil services company whose Colombia operations they sought to buy for $53 million. They increased the purchase price, and receive a portion of the higher amount in the form of kickbacks at the expense of their investing partners, Hammarskjold admitted.
The men had the payments deposited into Sigelman’s bank account in the Philippines and created a side letter to justify the payments. They referred to the payments as the “Manila Split,” admitted Hammarskjold, who said he received $106,492 of the $435,000 in kickbacks.
The cases are U.S. v. Hammarskjold, 13-mj-2086, U.S. v. Sigelman, 13-mj-02087, and U.S. v. Weisman, 13-cr-730, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Camden).
To contact the reporter on this story: David Voreacos in federal court in Newark, New Jersey, at