Vitol Group's U.S. subsidiary agreed to pay $135 million to resolve allegations by the U.S. government that the energy trader paid bribes in Brazil and other countries to boost its oil trading business, a prosecutor told a judge in Brooklyn on Thursday. The prosecutor said $45 million of the total payment would go to Brazilian authorities to resolve allegations in that country. Under the three-year deferred prosecution agreement, the Swiss trading firm agreed to improve internal reporting and compliance functions and to disgorge an undisclosed amount of gains to U.S. trading regulators. Vitol, run out of London, is the world's largest independent oil trader, trading some 8 million barrels of oil a day. A spokeswoman for Vitol said the company did not have an immediate comment. In the past, it has said it has a zero tolerance policy for bribery and corruption. Brazilian police have for years been investigating the wide-ranging 'Car Wash' scandal over the use of bribes to win contracts involving state-controlled oil company Petroleo Brasileiro SA (Petrobras). In October, police expanded the investigation at Petrobras based in part on secret recordings made by a former executive of Vitol, according to court documents. The prosecutor said Vitol paid roughly $8 million in bribes to employees at Petrobras from 2005 to 2014 in order to buy fuel from the company at artificially low prices or sell it at inflated prices. Vitol also paid similar bribes to Mexico's state-run Pemex and bribed a trader at Ecuadorian state oil company Petroecuador to steer an oil contract that ultimately benefited the commodities trader, prosecutors said. Petrobras did not return a request for comment, but has repeatedly described itself as the victim of individual bad actors within the firm who acted in coordination with other companies or government officials. The U.S prosecutor described Vitol as cooperative with both U.S. and Brazilian authorities and said the company had already initiated measures to address the allegations. Brazilian prosecutors announced in late 2018 that they were investigating Petrobras' oil deals with trading houses, including the world's biggest oil traders - Vitol, Trafigura and Glencore. They charged two former Trafigura employees, including a former board member, in late 2018 over allegations of paying bribes to Petrobras employees. Trafigura said no charges had been brought against any Trafigura company or any of its current management. Glencore declined to comment. REUTERS
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