BRUSSELS, Oct 12 (Reuters) - A subsidiary of commodities trader Glencore faced a Brussels courtroom on Wednesday, at the start of a criminal case involving allegations of corruption, including lavish gifts to an EU official in exchange for information.
The case, which also involves other companies including Dutch grains firm Codrico, is the culmination of a probe that has been running for more than seven years, involving a former EU agriculture official who is accused of giving out market-sensitive information on prices and quotas.
Former EU agriculture department official Karel Brus is accused of passing confidential information relating to EU export subsidy application decisions to a French farming lobbyist between 1999 and 2003.
A police source said on Wednesday that a 12,000 euro ($16,400) luxury Christofle cutlery set was among the gifts given by one of Glencore’s co-defendants to an EU official. The source said he also received holidays and other offerings.
Glencore, the world’s largest diversified commodities trader, said ahead of its listing earlier this year that its subsidiary Glencore Grain Rotterdam, a former employee and a current employee had been charged in the case.
It said the investigation was probing a public official, the European Commission’s Directorate General for Agriculture and others for “violation of professional secrecy, corruption of an international civil servant and criminal conspiracy”.
The case involves a total of 17 defendants who are alleged to be involved in the conspiracy in some way, including Union Invivo, a French agricultural cooperative.
There will be four hearings per week after the case starts in earnest in March or April next year, officials said.
Officials hope to conclude the case by the end of June, but there is a preliminary hearing pencilled in for the middle of January to finalise some of the details.
The investigation started in 2004 following a complaint by the European Anti-Fraud Office, the police source said. It covers facts dating from 1999 to 2003.
Glencore declined to comment. Invivo and lawyers for Codrico were not immediately reachable for comment. (Reporting By Ben Deighton)