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  • Guilty plea from former Venezuelan official in bribery scheme

    The DOJ announced on Thursday, April 19, that a former Venezuelan official had pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. The charge arose from Cesar David Rincon Godoy’s role in a bribery scheme involving bribes paid by the owners of U.S. companies to Venezuelan government officials to secure energy contracts and payments on outstanding invoices. As the former general manager of the procurement subsidiary of the Venezuelan state-owned energy company, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA), Rincon had solicited and accepted bribes. The judge entered a personal money judgment of $7,033,504.71. As a government official receiving the bribes, Rincon could not be charged himself with FCPA offenses (which are targeted at those paying the bribes). Related charges against four other individuals remain pending, including charges of conspiracy to violate the FCPA; 11 individuals have already pleaded guilty in the PDVSA cases.  

    For prior coverage of the PDVSA enforcement actions, please see here.

    DOJ Petroleos de Venezuela Venezuela Bribery FCPA Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Aruban telecom official pleads guilty to money laundering conspiracy involving FCPA violations

    Egbert Yvan Ferdinand Koolman, an official of Servicio di Telecommunicacion di Aruba N.V. (Setar), pleaded guilty to money laundering charges in connection with a scheme to arrange and receive corrupt payments to influence the awarding of contracts in Aruba.  The DOJ’s press release describes Setar as an Aruban state-owned company.  According to his plea agreement, Koolman, a Dutch citizen living in Florida, operated a money laundering conspiracy between 2005 and 2016 in his position as Setar’s product manager.   Lawrence W. Parker, Jr., who owned several Florida-based telecommunications companies, previously pleaded guilty to paying bribes to Koolman and Koolman’s wife.

    Koolman admitted that he conspired with Parker and others to transmit funds from Florida and elsewhere in the United States to Aruba and Panama with the intent to promote a wire fraud scheme and a corrupt scheme that violated the FCPA.  Koolman was promised and received bribes from individuals and companies located in the United States and abroad in exchange for using his position at Setar to award lucrative mobile phone and accessory contracts.  Koolman also admitted to providing favored vendors with confidential Setar information in exchange for the more than $1.3 million in corrupt payments.

    Setar filed a civil complaint against Koolman and other parties on March 3 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Florida, which contains a few points of note.  First, Setar describes itself in the complaint as a privatized company, whereas the DOJ’s press release called it an instrumentality of the Aruban government.  Second, the complaint states that Setar became aware of some of Koolman’s alleged activities via the Panama Papers, the 2016 leak of over 11 million documents from Panamanian law firm and financial services provider Mossack Fonseca.

    DOJ FCPA Anti-Money Laundering

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  • DOJ unseals charges against former Venezuelan government officials for money laundering and FCPA violations in Petroleos scheme

    On February 12, the DOJ unsealed charges against five former Venezuelan government officials for their involvement in a money laundering scheme at Venezuela’s state-owned energy company Petroleos de Venezuela (Petroleos). The five defendants—Luis Carlos De Leon Perez (De Leon), Nervis Gerardo Villalobos Cardenas (Villalobos), Cesar David Rincon Godoy (Cesar Rincon), Alejandro Isturiz-Chiesa, and Rafael Ernesto Reiter Munozare (Reiter)—are each charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering. De Leon and Villalobos are also charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA. 

    De Leon, Villalobos, Cesar Rincon, and Reiter were arrested in Spain in October 2017 on arrest warrants based on an indictment filed in the Southern District of Texas last August. Cesar Rincon has been extradited from Spain, while the others are pending extradition. 

    The indictment alleges that the five defendants possessed significant influence within Petroleos, which permitted them to solicit PDVSA vendors for “bribes and kickbacks in exchange for providing assistance to those vendors in connection with their PDVSA business.” The Petroleos vendors included residents of the U.S. and vendors who owned U.S.-based businesses. According to the indictment, two Petroleos vendors, Roberto Enrique Rincon Fernandez and Jose Shiera-Bastidas, transferred more than $27 million to accounts in Switzerland that were connected to De Leon and Villalobos. Rincon and Shiera previously pleaded guilty in the Southern District of Texas to FCPA charges related to the bribery of Petroleos officials. 

    The charges are part of an ongoing investigation by the DOJ and ICE-HSI into bribery at Petroleos, which has resulted in charges against fifteen individuals, ten of whom have pleaded guilty. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the Petroleos investigation can be found here.

    Score Card Bribery FCPA Petroleos de Venezuela DOJ Anti-Money Laundering Financial Crimes

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  • SFO confirms opening of criminal investigation into aerospace and defense group

    On January 18, the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) confirmed the opening of an investigation of Chemring Group PLC (“Chemring”) and its subsidiary, Chemring Technology Solutions Limited (“CTSL”) into alleged bribery, corruption, and money laundering. Chemring, a UK-based company that designs and makes products in the aerospace and defense industries, stated that the investigation followed a voluntary report from CTSL relating to “two specific historic contracts.” According to Chemring, the first of these contracts was awarded before the company took over the business group being investigated, while the second contract occurred after the acquisition. Chemring stated that the company will fully cooperate with the SFO’s investigation and provide further updates.

    UK Serious Fraud Office Fraud Bribery Anti-Corruption Anti-Money Laundering Chemring

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  • Judge denies bail to former Hong Kong official, who pleads not guilty to alleged African bribery

    Patrick Ho, a former Hong Kong official, reportedly entered a not guilty plea and was denied bail in federal district court in New York related to a number of FCPA, conspiracy, and money laundering counts. Ho was charged in late 2017, along with his co-defendant Cheikh Gadio, the former Foreign Minister of Senegal, with offering $2 million in bribes to the President of Chad. Ho is also alleged to have paid a half-million dollar bribe to the foreign affairs minister of Uganda. The DOJ alleges that Ho sought to direct bribe money through an NGO that he ran, which is funded by a Chinese-based oil and gas company.

    FCPA Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Former Embraer Executive Pleads Guilty to Saudi Arabian Bribery

    A former sales executive of Brazilian-based aircraft manufacturer Embraer S.A. pleaded guilty on December 21 in connection with a scheme to pay bribes to a Saudi Arabian government official. Colin Steven, a U.K. resident living in the United Arab Emirates, pleaded guilty to a count each of violating the FCPA, conspiracy to violate the FCPA, wire fraud, conspiracy to commit wire fraud, money laundering, conspiracy to launder money, and making a false statement. As part of his plea, he admitted that he engaged in a scheme to have Embraer pay bribes to a foreign official in exchange for assistance in getting an aircraft sales contract. Steven also admitted getting a kickback as part of the scheme and lying to law enforcement officials about the kickback.

    Embraer previously paid $205 million to the DOJ and SEC in October 2016 to resolve related FCPA violations in Saudi Arabia, Mozambique, and the Dominican Republic. 

    DOJ International FCPA Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Court Reduces Sentence for Former Cayman Islands Soccer Executive Who Pleaded Guilty in FIFA Investigation

    On December 12, Judge Chen of the U.S. District Court for the E.D.N.Y. amended the recent sentence entered against Costas Takkas, former general secretary of the Cayman Islands Football Association. On October 31, Mr. Takkas was sentenced to serve 15 months in prison, pay $3 million in restitution, and observe a ban from international soccer organizations FIFA, Caribbean Football Union (CFU), and the Confederation of North, Central American and Caribbean Association Football (CONCACAF). Under the amended sentence, Mr. Takkas was credited 10 months for time served in a Swiss jail prior to extradition; the other terms remained the same. 

    Mr. Takkas was arrested in Zurich in 2015, as part of the U.S. government’s investigation into corruption involving FIFA. Earlier this year, Mr. Takkas pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, admitting that he laundered millions of dollars in bribes from sports marketing companies to Jeffrey Webb, his longtime associate and the former president of CONCACAF. Mr. Takkas is the second individual sentenced among a group of more than 40 who have been indicted or pleaded guilty since 2015. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigation can be found here.

    International FIFA Bribery Anti-Money Laundering

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  • South Korean Earthquake Research Official Sentenced for Laundering Bribes

    On October 2, the former director of the earthquake research center of South Korea’s Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources, Mr. Hoen-Cheol Chi, was reportedly sentenced in U.S. federal court to 14 months in prison for laundering bribes he had received in South Korea from seismology companies. Prosecutors argued to the federal jury, which convicted Mr. Chi in July, that Mr. Chi had demanded and received more than $1 million in bribes from two seismological companies in exchange for providing them with insider information and directed some of the funds to be transferred to his personal bank account in California.

    Mr. Chi has not been charged in South Korea, and his conviction and sentencing in the United States illustrate the US DOJ’s continued focus on targeting foreign officials who receive bribes and then travel to the US or use its financial system.

    DOJ Anti-Money Laundering Bribery

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  • FCPA Sting Operation Results in Conspiracy Charge for Retired U.S. Army Colonel

    On August 29, the DOJ announced that it had unsealed a criminal complaint and FBI affidavit charging retired U.S. Army colonel Joseph Baptiste “for his alleged role in a foreign bribery and money laundering scheme in connection with a planned $84 million port development project in Haiti.” The DOJ alleges that Baptiste solicited bribes “from undercover [FBI] agents in Boston who posed as potential investors,” telling the agents “that he would funnel the payments to Haitian officials through a non-profit entity that he controlled . . . in order to secure government approval of the project.” Baptiste allegedly received a $50,000 payment from the FBI, which he wired to his non-profit organization. While Baptiste ultimately used the payment for personal purposes, rather than his promised bribery, he allegedly “intended to seek additional money from the undercover agents to use for future bribe payments in connection with the port project.” The DOJ also alleges that FBI agents intercepted telephone calls where Baptiste “discussed bribing an aide to a senior Haitian official by giving him a job on the port development project after he left his position.”

    FCPA sting operations are relatively rare. An infamous FCPA sting operation involving Africa resulted in charges for 22 defendants, but it concluded unsuccessfully in 2012 after a series of acquittals and hung juries caused the DOJ to dismiss the remaining indictments.

    DOJ FBI Hati Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Macau Real Estate Developer Convicted of Violating FCPA

    On July 27, 2017, a federal jury in the Southern District of New York convicted Ng Lap Seng of Macau of bribery, money laundering, and conspiracy, for his role in a widespread plan to bribe United Nations officials in order to establish a new conference facility in Macau. Five other defendants have also been charged; four have pleaded guilty, and one passed away. A sentencing date has not yet been set.

    As pointed out on the FCPA Professor, this is a significant win for the DOJ because it marks the first time since 2011 that the DOJ has successfully taken an FCPA case to verdict. Our additional coverage of this matter can be viewed here.

    FCPA Enforcement Action Anti-Money Laundering Bribery

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