NEWARK, USA -- The former co-chief executive officer of PetroTiger Ltd – a British Virgin Islands oil and gas company with operations in Colombia and offices in New Jersey – was indicted on Friday for his role in a scheme to pay bribes to foreign government officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to defraud PetroTiger.
Joseph Sigelman, 43, of Miami and the Philippines, was indicted on Friday by a federal grand jury in the District of New Jersey and charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, conspiracy to launder money, and substantive FCPA and money laundering violations.
Gregory Weisman, 42, of Moorestown, New Jersey, the former general counsel of PetroTiger, pleaded guilty on November 8, 2013, to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud. Sigelman’s co-CEO, Knut Hammarskjold, 42, of Greenville, South Carolina, pleaded guilty to the same charge on February 18, 2014.
According to court records, Sigelman and others allegedly paid bribes to an official in Colombia in exchange for the official’s assistance in securing approval for an oil services contract worth roughly $39 million. To conceal the bribes, they first attempted to make the payments to a bank account in the name of the foreign official’s wife for purported consulting services she did not perform. Sigelman and Hammarskjold provided Weisman invoices, including her bank account information. The conspirators made the payments directly to the official’s bank account when attempts to transfer the money to his wife’s account failed. Sigelman and his conspirators then took steps to conceal the bribe payments from PetroTiger’s board members.
In addition, court documents allege that Sigelman and others attempted to secure kickback payments while negotiating an acquisition of another company on behalf of PetroTiger, including on behalf of several members of PetroTiger’s board of directors who were helping to fund the acquisition. In exchange for negotiating more favorable terms for the owners of the target company, two of the owners agreed to kick back to the conspirators a portion of the increased purchase price. To conceal the kickback payments, Sigelman and others had the payments deposited into Sigelman’s bank account in the Philippines, created a “side letter” to falsely justify the payments and used the code name “Manila Split” to refer to the payments amongst themselves.
Sigelman and Hammarskjold were charged by sealed complaints filed in the District of New Jersey on November 8, 2013. Hammarskjold was arrested November 20, 2013, at Newark Liberty International Airport. Sigelman was arrested on January 3, 2014, in the Philippines. The charges against Sigelman, Hammarskjold and Weisman were unsealed on January 6, 2014.
The charges contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.