Trafigura oil discloses $4.3bn in government payouts

Trafigura disclosed $4.3bn (€3.98bn) in oil-related payments to governments in 2013, as part of increased transparency by the third-largest independent oil trader.

Trafigura oil discloses $4.3bn in government payouts

The firm said the funds were used to purchase crude oil, refined petroleum products, and gas from national oil companies in countries that have signed up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), or in candidate countries.

In its inaugural responsibility report, Transfigura revealed payments made in Colombia, Ghana, Nigeria, Norway, Peru, and Trinidad and Tobago.

The commodity trading industry, much of it centred in Switzerland, where traders are not directly regulated, has long been noted for its opacity and lack of disclosure.

While Trafigura is based in Singapore, it has major operations in Geneva, as do close competitors Vitol Group, the largest independent oil trader, and Gunvor Group Ltd.

In the past, the traders have cited competitive reasons for their furtiveness.

Trafigura is the first major, independent commodity trader to report oil-related payments to member states of the EITI, a voluntary disclosure programme for oil and mining companies.

The EITI finds and prevents corruption. The report “sets out an ambition to become acknowledged leaders in our sector, in the way we manage corporate responsibility”, said CEO Jeremy Weir.

Trafigura’s decision to report payments comes amid a schism within Switzerland’s tight-knit commodity-trading industry, which accounts for 4% of the nation’s GDP.

Switzerland is home to more than 500 commodity-trading companies, but has not imposed mandatory regulations on the sector, despite calls to do so by non-governmental organisations.

Government officials have encouraged other trading houses to join Trafigura in disclosing payments.

“While the number of countries covered, and the level of granularity of the data are still rather disappointing, we welcome this transparency effort as a first step in the right direction,” said Oliver Classen, of the Berne Declaration, a Swiss NGO that has led calls for more regulation.

Mr Classen said the report “proves how easily and swiftly” a disclosure of payments could be done by Trafigura’s competitors.

The Swiss government should include commodity trading in a pending transparency law, he said.

Trafigura’s disclosure included $2.5bn of payments to Nigerian National Petroleum.

Those payments were an “aggregate swap of crude oil and corresponding delivery of refined products from, and to, national oil companies in EITI countries”, Trafigura said, adding that it would continue to review its policy on payments to governments, and disclosure under the EITI.

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