PetroTiger’s Ex-Chief Sigelman Indicted for Bribery

Joseph Sigelman, a former co-chief executive officer of PetroTiger Ltd., was indicted in the U.S. for allegedly bribing an official at Colombia’s state-controlled oil company to secure a $39.6 million contract.

Sigelman, 43, was indicted by a grand jury today in Newark, New Jersey, on charges that include violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, money laundering and conspiracy. PetroTiger’s former co-CEO, Knut Hammarskjold, and former general counsel, Gregory Weisman, have pleaded guilty in the case.

Sigelmen also engaged with Hammarskjold and Weisman in a kickback scheme “at the expense of their investing partners, and to pay bribes to a foreign official in order to secure approval for a lucrative oil services contract,” according to the indictment.

The indictment comes as the U.S. cracks down on foreign bribery by using the FCPA, which bars payment of money or giving anything of value to foreign officials to obtain or retain business. PetroTiger is a British Virgin Islands oil and gas company with subsidiaries and offices in Colombia and New Jersey.

Sigelman was arrested Jan. 3 in the Philippines and then appeared at bail hearings in Guam and Camden, New Jersey. He was released Jan. 8 on $4.4 million bail. As part of his bail conditions, Sigelman is living at his home in Miami.

Bribes Funneled

He’s accused of funneling at least $333,500 in bribes through the wife of an official at Ecopetrol SA, Latin America’s second-largest oil company by market value. The official had the ability to influence the approval process for a $39.6 million contract with another company, Mansarovar Energy Colombia Ltd., according to the indictment.

In the related kickback scheme, prosecutors alleged that Sigelman agreed to increase the purchase price of another company in exchange for $435,000 from the owners. The money was wired into Sigelman’s bank account in the Philippines. Weisman referred to dividing the money as the “Manila Split,” and Sigelman got $239,015, prosecutors said.

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. Hammarskjold was co-CEO from June 2009 to December 2010.

He pleaded guilty Feb. 19 in federal court in Camden to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud. Weisman pleaded guilty to the same charges on Nov. 8.

Sigelman’s attorney, Andrew Lourie, didn’t immediately respond to phone and e-mail messages seeking comment.

PetroTiger voluntarily brought the case to the Justice Department’s attention and is cooperating with the investigation, the U.S. said. Prosecutors also got help from the governments of Panama and the Philippines, according to a Justice Department statement.

The case is U.S. v. Sigelman, District of New Jersey.

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