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Foreign Corrupt Practices Act & Anti-Corruption

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  • DOJ Files Suit to Seize $144 Million in Laundered Nigerian Oil Bribes

    The U.S. Department of Justice announced Friday, July 14, that prosecutors filed a civil complaint seeking to seize $144 million in assets that were allegedly the proceeds of corruption in Nigeria and were laundered in and through the U.S. According to the complaint, from 2011 to 2015, Nigerian businessmen Kolawole Akanni Aluko and Olajide Omokore bribed Nigeria’s former Minister for Petroleum Resources, Diezani Alison-Madueke, who oversaw Nigeria’s state-owned oil company. In return, Alison-Madueke steered lucrative oil contracts to companies owned by Aluko and Omokore. The proceeds were then allegedly used to purchase assets subject to seizure and forfeiture, including a $50 million New York City condominium and an $80 million yacht.

    “The United States is not a safe haven for the proceeds of corruption,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “The complaint announced today demonstrates the Department’s commitment to working with our law enforcement partners around the globe to trace and recover the proceeds of corruption, no matter the source. Corrupt foreign officials and business executives should make no mistake: if illicit funds are within the reach of the United States, we will seek to forfeit them and to return them to the victims from whom they were stolen.”

    The suit was part of the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative.

    DOJ Anti-Money Laundering Corruption Nigeria

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  • Former DOJ Fraud Compliance Counsel Resigns, Criticizes President

    Hui Chen, formerly Compliance Counsel Expert in the DOJ Fraud Section, is speaking out about the reasons for her May 2017 resignation, which she has attributed to unacceptable conduct by the President and his Administration. Chen was hired by DOJ in November 2015 after serving as Global Head for Anti-Bribery and Corruption and Standard Chartered Bank. She was the first lawyer to hold this position at the DOJ.

    In a June 25 LinkedIn post, Chen unleashed several criticisms against the President, including regarding lawsuits, conflicts of interest, and ongoing investigations. She said that she would “not tolerate” those conducts in a company, but “worked under an administration that engaged in exactly those conduct.” Chen further elaborated on her criticisms in a July 4, 2017 interview with CNN, stating that the firing of FBI James Comey tipped the scales in favor of resignation. 

    The DOJ had previously posted an opening to hire a new Compliance Counsel, but that listing has now expired. It is not clear if anyone has been hired to replace Ms. Chen. 

    DOJ Trump Fraud

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  • CDM Smith Receives Declination of FCPA Charges

    On June 21, the DOJ issued a declination letter to attorneys for CDM Smith, Inc., in which the DOJ declined prosecution and closed an investigation of CDM regarding potential FCPA violations that occurred in India between 2011 and 2015. CDM, a Boston-based privately held engineering and construction firm, agreed to pay DOJ approximately $4 million in disgorgement. The DOJ announced the declination on June 29 with a link posted on its website, making it the second FCPA declination that the DOJ announced in June 2017. Prior to June, the DOJ had last issued an FCPA declination letter in September 2016. 

    According to the DOJ Letter, CDM paid approximately $1.18 million in bribes to India government officials in exchange for contracts that resulted in approximately $4 million in net profits (the disgorgement amount). The payments were made by CDM’s division responsible for India operations and by CDM’s wholly-owned subsidiary in India through fraudulent subcontractors and generally equaled two to four percent of the contract price. 

    The DOJ’s letter stated that its decision to close its investigation is consistent with the FCPA Pilot Program, launched in April 2016 to encourage companies to “voluntarily self-disclose FCPA-related misconduct, fully cooperate with the Fraud Section, and, where appropriate, remediate flaws in their controls and compliance programs.” Accordingly, the DOJ determined that CDM had, among other things, made a “timely and voluntary self-disclosure” of potential FCPA violations, conducted and “thorough and comprehensive investigation,” fully cooperated with the DOJ, and performed full remediation, including the termination of all of the executives and employees involved in the conduct at issue. However, the letter provides little detail about these factors. 

    The DOJ letter makes clear that it does not foreclose future prosecution of any individuals connected to this matter, whether affiliated with CDM or otherwise.

    DOJ India Bribery FCPA Enforcement Action CDM Smith FCPA Pilot Program

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  • U.K. Banker Receives Six-Year Sentence for Taking Bribes

    On June 20, 2017, a former banker at the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in London received a six year prison sentence for accepting more than $3.5 million in bribes. According to the Crown Prosecution Service, Andrey Ryjenko also received two years (to run concurrently) for "concealing, disguising, converting and transferring criminal property."  

    Reuters reports that Ryjenko conspired with a U.S. consultant to direct EBRD investments towards certain companies in exchange for bribes deposited into a bank account in the name of Ryjenko's sister. The consultant, Dmitrji Harder, pleaded guilty in 2016 in the U.S. to two counts of violating the FCPA. For additional coverage and analysis of the U.S. Department of Justice's enforcement action against Harder, see the previous posts here.

    Both the Harder case and the Ryjenko prosecution were the result of a multinational investigation with cooperating agencies in several countries. Indeed, the CPS praised the cooperation, stating that Ryjenko's "conviction was made possible through effective cross-border partnerships between a number of jurisdictions, including the United States." According to Reuters, it was the bank that first contacted authorities in 2010 when its internal systems identified irregularities. 

    The Ryjenko conviction is part of a growing trend of foreign jurisdictions taking action against bribe recipients, who are not covered under the FCPA’s prohibitions in the U.S. (although U.S. authorities can sometimes try to pursue those bribe recipients under money laundering and other theories, if the bribe recipients can be brought under U.S. jurisdiction).

    FCPA Enforcement Action EBRD Ryjenko Dmitrij Harder Bribery

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  • SFO Announces Charges Against a Global Bank and Four Former Executives in Qatar Capital Raising Matter

    On Tuesday, June 20, the UK Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) announced charges against a global bank and four former executives for conspiracy to commit fraud and provision of unlawful financial assistance in violation of the Companies Act 1985. These charges relate to the bank’s capital raising arrangements with Qatar Holding LLC and Challenger Universal Ltd in June and October 2008, as well as to a $3 billion loan facility made available to the State of Qatar acting through the Ministry of Economy and Finance in November 2008. According to the SFO press release, the investigation was first announced in 2012, and the individuals charged include a former Chief Executive Officer of the bank, a former Executive Chairman of the bank's Capital Investment Banking and Investment Management in Middle East and North Africa, a former Chief Executive of the bank's Wealth and Investment Management, and a former European Head of the bank’s Financial Institutions Group.

    While no US-based charges have been announced, the SFO’s announcement comes on the heels of the bank’s March 2017 disclosure to the SEC in which the company stated that “the DOJ and SEC are undertaking an investigation into whether the Group’s relationships with third parties who assist the bank to win or retain business are compliant with the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.”

    SEC UK Serious Fraud Office Fraud Qatar Holding Challenger Universal

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  • Linde Gas Agrees to Pay DOJ More Than $11 Million, Receives Declination of FCPA Charges

    On Friday, June 16, the DOJ issued a declination letter to attorneys for Linde North America Inc. and Linde Gas North America LLC (collectively, “Linde”), in which the DOJ declined prosecution and closed an investigation of Linde and certain of its subsidiaries and affiliates regarding potential FCPA violations that occurred between November 2006 and December 2009. Linde, part of Germany’s Linde Group, which trades only on German stock exchanges and which has no securities registered with the SEC, agreed to pay DOJ a combined $11.2 million in disgorgement and forfeiture. 

    According to the DOJ letter, Spectra Gases, a New Jersey-based company acquired by Linde in October 2006, made corrupt payments to officials at and related to a Republic of Georgia state-owned and controlled entity to ensure continuity of business. Upon discovering this conduct, Linde initiated an internal investigation and subsequently withheld monies earmarked for a company controlled by the Georgian entity. These monies comprise the approximately $3.4 million that Linde agreed to forfeit.

    The DOJ letter stated that its decision is consistent with the FCPA Pilot Program, launched in April 2016 to encourage companies “to voluntarily self-disclose FCPA-related misconduct, fully cooperate with the Fraud Section, and, where appropriate, remediate flaws in their controls and compliance programs.” Accordingly, the DOJ determined that Linde had, among other things, voluntarily self-reported potential FCPA violations, conducted a thorough and proactive internal investigation, and continues to cooperate fully and remediate its compliance program and internal controls. Notably, the DOJ letter does not foreclose future prosecution of any individuals, and the letter explicitly delineates DOJ’s expectation that Linde will continue cooperating fully in any ongoing investigation of individuals.

    DOJ FCPA Enforcement Action Linde North America Anti-Corruption

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  • Former Swiss Bank Executive Pleads Guilty in FIFA Investigation

    On June 15, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced that Jorge Luis Arzuaga, a citizen of Argentina and a former managing director of the Swiss Bank Julius Baer, pleaded guilty to money laundering conspiracy charges. His guilty plea came in connection with allegations that he facilitated the payment of more than $25 million in bribes to soccer officials by opening and managing bank accounts for those officials. In exchange for his assistance in facilitating these bribes, Arzuaga received over $1 million in bonus payments from other co-conspirators, an amount he agreed to forfeit in connection with his plea. 

    The guilty plea came as part of the U.S. government’s investigation into corruption in international soccer which has been ongoing since May 2015. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigation can be found here.

    Score Card Anti-Money Laundering Bribery FIFA

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  • Supreme Court Limits SEC Disgorgement

    On June 5, the Supreme Court ruled in Kokesh v. SEC that the SEC’s authority to disgorge profits from defendants is subject to the five-year statute of limitations applicable to penalties and fines. The Court rejected the SEC’s position that disgorgement is an equitable remedy and not a penalty, resolving a circuit split on the issue. Writing for the unanimous Court, Justice Sotomayor said that disgorgement “bears all the hallmarks of a penalty,” reasoning that it “is intended to deter, not to compensate.” The defendant in Kokesh was an investment adviser who had been ordered to disgorge approximately $35 million for allegedly misappropriating investor funds.

    The SEC routinely seeks disgorgement in FCPA enforcement actions. The Kokesh decision may lead the SEC to seek tolling agreements sooner and in more circumstances, particularly where the alleged conduct occurred over a long period of time. The decision may also impact defendants’ ability to claim insurance coverage for disgorgement because insurers might deny coverage for payment of penalties.

    SEC FCPA Enforcement Action Kokesh

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  • Former Och-Ziff Consultant Sentenced to Two Years in Prison

    On May 31, Samuel Mebiame, the son of a former Prime Minister of Gabon, a former consultant to a joint venture between mining company Och-Ziff Capital Management Group LLC (Och-Ziff) and an entity incorporated in the Turks and Caicos, was sentenced to two years in prison for conspiring to violate the FCPA by bribing government officials in several African countries. 

    As previously reported here, Mebiame previously pleaded guilty to allegations related to payments of approximately $3 million to high-level government officials in Niger, in addition to providing luxury cars, in order to obtain uranium mining concessions. Similarly, the DOJ charged Mebiame with bribing a high-ranking government official in Chad with luxury foreign travel to obtain a uranium mining concession there, and with bribing government officials in Guinea with cash, the use of private jets, and a luxury car in order to obtain confidential government information. Prior Scorecard coverage regarding Och-Ziff is here.

    FCPA Enforcement Action DOJ Bribery

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  • SFO Charges Additional Individual Defendant in Connection with F.H. Bertling North Sea Investigation

    The United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) has reportedly charged the former chief commercial officer of F.H. Bertling Ltd. with two counts of conspiracy to make corrupt payments to assist F.H. Bertling with attaining or retaining contracts for freight forwarding services to the North Sea oil exploration project Jasmine. The former executive is the seventh individual charged, in addition to the company, with violations of section 1 of the UK Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 for alleged conduct between January 2010 and May 2013 in connection with the Jasmine project.

    The charges follow on the heels of separate corruption charges against the company and other individuals related to an Angolan project. Last July, the SFO charged F.H. Bertling and seven individuals with violation of section 1 of the Prevention of Corruption Act 1906 and section 1 of the Criminal Law Act 1977 through conspiring to make corrupt payments between January 2005 and December 2006 to an agent of the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol, in order to facilitate F.H. Bertling’s freight forwarding business operations and contracts in Angola.

    FCPA Enforcement Action UK Prevention of Corruption Act UK Serious Fraud Office

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