Gulf Oil Corp. has paid a civil penalty of $229,500 for violating the 1970 Bank Secrecy Act by failing to disclose to the Bureau of Customs that it was shuttling currency between a foreign country and the United States.
The law requires that Customs must be told when there is international transportation of more than $5,000 cash.
Gulf, which has been under new management for more than a year, issued a statement in Pittsburgh saying it was paying the fine to the Treasury Department "without admitting liability."
The fine, the largest ever imposed under the Bank Secrecy Act. grew out of a 1973 conviction of Gulf for making illegal campaign contributions to presidential and congressional candidates.
In a subsequent internal audit report, ordered by the court, Gulf revealed in 1975 htat at least $4.5 million was funneled through a Bahamas subsidiary into this country, in part for payment to politicians.
Gulf reported that William Viglia, then a comptroller of the Bahamas subsidiary, regularly carried $25,000 cash on trips between the islands and the U.S.
A Treasury Department spokesman said that the $229.500 fine was 90 per cent of the amount it could actually prove was moved between the Bahamas and this country from mid-1972 through the end of 1973.
Explaining why the Treasury did not fine Gulf 90 per cent of the multi-million dollar figure cited in the report, he said: "It's a very technical violation. We couldn't just transpose what was reported."
During hearings last spring, the House Government Affairs subcommittee criticized the Treasury Department for not enforcing the Bank Secrecy Act. A Treasury spokesman added that the department would soon issue fresh guidelines on the act.
He added that Treasury is considering whether to impose fines on other corporations for similar violations of the act, which also requires businessmen to report any currency transfers of more than $10,000 within the U.S.
Gulf, as part of its settlement of the criminal suit in 1973, was reportedly given immunity from further criminal prosecution for violating currency laws.
But it was learned yesterday that the Justice Department is considering prosecution of a number of other companies for illegal international currency transactions.
This is part of a broad review by the federal government of illegal or questionable corporate payments, which were uncovered over the past three years by the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Initially, 16 criminal division attorneys were each given one corporation to investigate for possible criminal prosecution. Several other companies were added during the course of the probe that was initiated in July 1976, so that now about 50 companies are under investigation. The names of the companies have not been revealed.
In addition to the criminal prosecutors, two SEC attorneys have been assigned to the task force.
Meanwhile, the investigation of the movement of funds in and out of the U.S. is being conducted by some 35 customs investigators.