Bunge Cops a Plea
The much publicized grain robbery that has plagued the nation's export shipments in recent years has resulted in indictments of 52 individuals and four corporations. Last week one of the nation's largest grain exporters, Bunge Corp., became the first of those companies to accept the judicial consequences. Bunge, a privately held firm, pleaded no contest to a federal charge that it had for almost twelve years, until June 1973, short weigh ted ship cargoes at its two grain elevators in Destrehan, La., and Galveston, Texas. The company also offered no defense against a charge that it used false invoices to market surreptitiously to U.S. companies every three or four months up to 25,000 bushels of the leftover grain—in effect stolen from foreign customers.
Bunge suffered only a light penalty: the federal district court in New Orleans fined it $20,000. As part of an unusual plea-bargaining arrangement, Bunge agreed to allot $2 million to $3 million of its own money over a three-year period to hire more inspectors for its elevators, and pay for additional auditors, independent certified public accountants and an outside compliance consultant. U.S. Attorney Gerald J. Gallinghouse called the Bunge program one of "the most important steps that can be taken toward cleaning up the crime in the grain industry."
The settlement does not affect the cases of 13 Bunge employees, eight of whom have pleaded guilty to theft or related charges. Bunge still faces possible civil suits from the Government, its customers and transportation companies. Meantime, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service, the Department of Agriculture, several congressional committees and the General Accounting Office continue to probe into the scandal. Their investigations are expected to lead to more corporate indictments.
June 20, 1975