SBM Offshore Facing Swiss Probe Over Legacy Bribery Scandal

Dutch oil services company SBM Offshore is now under criminal investigation by the Swiss government related to a bribery and corruption scandal in which the company has already been fined hundreds of millions of dollars in the U.S., Brazil and the Netherlands.

SBM Swiss briberyPhoto Credit: Shutterstock

Monday, SBM said three of their subsidiaries received notice from Swiss prosecutors that an investigation was under way into suspicions that the company failed to implement measures to prevent corrupt payments between 2005 and 2015.

The Swiss attorney general’s office claims it opened the criminal probe in connection to earlier proceedings brought against former senior executives at SBM who were found guilty of bribing foreign public officials in July. U.S. prosecutors alleged the two men paid out more than $16 million in bribes to win bids with state-run oil companies and government contracts.

“We will engage with the Swiss public prosecutor and seek clarification,” Erik Lagendijk, SBM’s chief governance and compliance officer, said. “We did not expect this development in Switzerland as Swiss authorities have been involved in the matter from the time of the settlement in the Netherlands in 2014.”

The harsh penalties SBM face highlight that violation of anti-bribery laws such as the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act can result in separate investigations from all parties effected, sometimes even years later. SBM paid the U.S. $238 million in 2017 to settle allegations that the company paid almost $190 million to middlemen while knowing that portions of the money would go toward bribing government officials in Brazil, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Kazakhstan and Iraq. Three years earlier, the drilling company agreed to pay $240 million to Dutch authorities in a separate probe related to the same business dealings.

Earlier this month, SBM concluded a three-year reporting requirement as part of the 2017 deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice related to bribery violations across three continents.

“The completion of our reporting to the Department of Justice marks the strength of the control measures the Company put in place,” Mr. Lagendijk said in a statement.

The legal probe is likely to result in an eventual settlement of some sort as it will be hard to disprove the findings of the investigation considering SBM’s involvement in the corruption and bribery ring has already led to hundreds of millions of dollars in fines already.

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