Colombia arrests seven suspected of graft at state oil firm

Colombian authorities arrested seven suspects Wednesday accused of involvement in a kickback scheme between state oil company Ecopetrol and multinational firm PetroTiger.  

AFP| Updated: Mar 12, 2015, 06:03 AM IST

Bogota: Colombian authorities arrested seven suspects Wednesday accused of involvement in a kickback scheme between state oil company Ecopetrol and multinational firm PetroTiger.

Investigators allege a former Ecopetrol employee, David Duran, took large bribes to award a lucrative 2010 contract to PetroTiger, an oil services contractor based in the British Virgin Islands.

Four current Ecopetrol employees, two former employees and a "private individual linked to PetroTiger" were arrested on suspicion of corruption, illicit personal enrichment and forgery, prosecutors said in a statement.

Joseph Sigelman, a former chief executive at PetroTiger, was indicted last May by a federal grand jury in the United States on charges of paying Duran a $335,000 "consulting fee" in exchange for the awarding of a $39 million contract.

In all, PetroTiger is suspected of paying out more than $760,000 in bribes from 2009 to 2010.

Ecopetrol, which is 87 percent owned by the Colombian government, said it had immediately suspended the four current employees.

Colombia is the fourth-largest oil producer in Latin America, after Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil.