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Court finds Glencore grain unit bribed E.U. official


BRUSSELS (Reuters)—A Belgian court convicted a subsidiary of commodities trader Glencore Internatonal P.L.C. and others on Wednesday of bribing a European Union official in return for market-sensitive information.

Glencore Grain Rotterdam, part of the world's largest diversified commodities trader, was found guilty of paying the official's large mobile phone bills and laying on a French holiday to secure information about grain subsidies.

"The holiday offered by Glencore Grain Rotterdam to Karel Brus in the south of France in June 2003 was in relation to the obtaining of secret information," Judge Pierre Hendrickx told the court before fining the unit €500,000 ($628,500).

In 2002 and 2003, Glencore paid €20,000 ($25,140) in phone bills for Mr. Brus.

"The mobile telephone was at the same time an element to be used to facilitate the violation of professional secrets...and an advantage used to incite him to agree to commit these indiscretions," Judge Hendrickx said.

The court also convicted some other companies and individuals, including French agricultural cooperative Union Invivo, of providing or facilitating bribes.

The case centered on Mr. Brus, a former E.U. agriculture department official, who was accused of passing confidential information about E.U. export subsidy applications in 2002 and 2003. Mr. Brus was sentenced to 40 months in jail.

On receiving the judgment, Mr. Brus, dressed in a crumpled grey jacket and a light shirt, bowed his head and stared at the floor.

The companies received confidential information that allowed them to put in favorable bids in tenders for European export subsidies.

Asked whether it would appeal, a spokesman for Glencore said: "We're considering our position." The lawyer for Mr. Brus, Gert Warson, described his client as a "scapegoat."