ABN Amro Group NV was told by an Amsterdam court to pay 1.06 million euros ($1.41 million) in compensation to two bankers it fired after an oil-trading company complained the executives had sought a bribe.
ABN didn’t offer sufficient evidence to justify immediately dismissing Bruno Gremez, the global head of energy commodities, and a subordinate, Samir Kasmi, according to a June 10 ruling of the Amsterdam Subdistrict Court obtained by Bloomberg News.
“The consequences of the allegations for Gremez and Kasmi are considerable,” Judge Monetta Ulrici said in the ruling. “Gremez and Kasmi have become tainted in the market in which they operated, while both had a nice career ahead of them.”
Under the judgment, known as a preliminary relief ruling, ABN has to pay their salaries until their contracts end later this year. The bank also has to pay 770,000 euros to Gremez and 294,000 euros to Kasmi, the chief of energy commodities for the Middle East, North and East Africa and south Asia, according to a separate ruling on the same date. ABN Amro said in an e-mailed response it will only have to pay if subsequent proceedings confirm the dismissals were improper.
The bankers were fired on March 26 after ABN Amro received a complaint in November from Oil Marketing & Trading International LLC. OMTI said the two executives requested a “personal fee” of $3.5 million and imposed conditions, including additional due diligence, when it refused to pay, the court documents show. An internal probe by ABN Amro’s security and intelligence management department found evidence their claims were founded.
The two executives denied the allegations and said they requested additional risk management measures after the U.S. Office of Foreign Assets Control increased rules regarding trade in oil from Iran. The action also took place after reports said Iranian oil had been traded from depots in the United Arab Emirates port of Fujairah, breaking international sanctions. Closely held OMTI has an office in Fujairah, according to its website, as well as Dubai and Athens.
“The dissolution ruling gives a conditional judgment on the matter as the proceedings chosen don’t offer room for an full test of the evidence,” Jeroen van Maarschalkerweerd, a spokesman for Amsterdam-based ABN Amro, said by e-mail. “Compensation has only been awarded in case immediate dismissal doesn’t hold up and that remains to be seen. Our view remains unchanged.”
The bank will study the ruling and consider its next steps, he said. Either party can request the Amsterdam court to reexamine the matter in greater detail.
Ines Hoedemaeker, a lawyer representing Gremez and Kasmi, said they are satisfied with the rulings. The level of compensation awarded by the court indicates “grave culpability” on the side of ABN, she said. Under the court’s ruling, Gremez’s contract will expire on Oct. 1, 2013, and Kasmi’s on Sept. 1.
The Amsterdam Subdistrict Court said it had doubts about the reliability of statements from OMTI’s executives to ABN and a recording of a conversation between OMTI and the bankers the company provided to ABN Amro.
Yiannis Kilakos, a director at OMTI, said in an e-mail the company “remains firm on its previous position.” In March, Kilakos said he “categorically denied any reports that the company had dealt in Iranian oil.” ABN Amro’s Van Maarschalkerweerd also said investigations showed allegations regarding possible trading with Iran proved to be unfounded.
The court dismissed Gremez’s and Kasmi’s claims that ABN would have to take steps to inform clients that OMTI’s accusations were false, saying it wasn’t in a position to judge their validity. The court also didn’t accept the men’s claim for compensation until retirement, and of legal costs of more than 85,000 euros.
The cases are: EA-13-429, ABN Amro Bank NV v. Bruno Gremez and EA 13-430, ABN Amro Bank NV v. Samir Kasmi, Amsterdam Subdistrict Court; 1423777 KK EXPL 13-581, Bruno Gremez v. ABN Amro Bank NV and 2051370 KK EXPL 13-770, Samir Kasmi v. ABN Amro Bank NV.