PetroTiger’s Former Co-CEO Avoids Prison in Bribery Case

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A former PetroTiger Ltd. co-chief executive officer avoided prison after pleading guilty in the midst of his bribery trial over a Colombian oil-services contract.

Joseph Sigelman, 44, was sentenced Tuesday to three years of probation, fined $100,000 and ordered to pay $239,015 in restitution for admitting he conspired to bribe an official at Colombia’s state-controlled oil company, Ecopetrol SA.

Sigelman entered his plea Monday after his lawyer undermined the testimony of a key government witness last week on cross examination. Prosecutors dropped five other counts, including money laundering and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Before the plea, he faced as long as 20 years in prison.

Under the deal, Sigelman faced a sentence ranging from probation to a year and a day in prison. At the sentencing, U.S. District Judge Joseph Irenas rejected the U.S. request for a one-year term.

“Clearly, he showed, I’ll call it a character flaw,” Irenas said, according to a transcript. “He has the potential and proven ability to do great good for society.”

Sigelman, a graduate of Princeton University and Harvard Business School, was remorseful.

“I accept responsibility for the actions that have led to this plea,” Sigelman said. “I will strive to earn back trust from those around me, by my future deeds. I apologize to my family, friends, and to this community.”

PetroTiger, which once had a New Jersey office, is a British Virgin Islands-based oil and gas company with operations in Colombia.

Guilty Pleas

The company’s former co-CEO, Knut Hammarskjold, and ex-general counsel, Gregory Weisman, pleaded guilty earlier to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and commit wire fraud. Weisman cooperated with prosecutors and was the trial’s second witness.

Sigelman’s lawyer, William Burck, attacked Weisman’s credibility during cross-examination. Weisman conceded he “misremembered” some of his earlier testimony.

“In effect, he admitted perjury in this courtroom,” Irenas said Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Sigelman and others paid $333,500 in bribes to David Duran, an employee at Ecopetrol SA, for his help in securing a $45 million oil-services contract for PetroTiger.

Sigelman admitted authorizing payments to Duran and said he deliberately avoided learning that Duran worked for Ecopetrol. He stopped short of saying he knew Duran was an Ecopetrol employee.

“It was a great deal that the government offered,” Burck said in a phone interview. “It allows him to put this all behind him.”

The case is U.S. v. Sigelman, 14-cr-263, U.S. District Court, District of New Jersey (Camden).

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