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  • Florida Energy Company Owner Pleads Guilty to Conspiracy to Violate the FCPA in Venezuelan Bribery Scheme

    Financial Crimes

    On October 11, the DOJ announced that the co-owner of several Florida-based energy companies pleaded guilty to FCPA charges that he conspired to bribe foreign officials in exchange for obtaining contracts from a Venezuela’s state-owned energy company. In his plea, the defendant admitted to conspiring with two other individuals from 2008 through 2014 to bribe purchasing analysts employed by the energy company through cash payments and other entertainment in order to win contracts for their companies. In total, ten individuals have now pleaded guilty in connection with the scheme.    

    This investigation has been a collaboration between the DOJ, ICE-HSI, and IRS-Criminal Investigation Division. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the investigation can be found here.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA Bribery International

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  • U.S. Government Revokes Certain Sanctions on Sudan Following Review Period of Sudanese Policies and Actions

    Financial Crimes

    On October 6, the U.S. Government announced, effective October 12, the revocation of certain economic sanctions against Sudan and the Government of Sudan (GOS) as a recognition of sustained positive actions in connection with efforts to cease hostilities, improve humanitarian access, promote regional stability, and address the threat of terrorism. As previously covered in InfoBytes, the announcement follows a joint review conducted by the Secretary of State, the Secretary of the Treasury, the Director of National Intelligence, and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development that began in January 2017 as required by Executive Order 13761 and amended by Executive Order 13804. The Secretary of State issued a contemporaneous report concluding that, despite GOS’ demonstrated improvement in the areas that led to the issuance of Executive Order 13761, there remain a range of concerns. As such, while the comprehensive sanctions program has been lifted, certain sanctions and trade restrictions remain in place. Specifically:

    • the national emergency, established in Executive Order 13067 with respect to Sudan, remains in effect;
    • U.S. sanctions related to the conflict in Darfur, pursuant to Executive Order 13400, remain in place;
    • The U.S. Government maintains the authority to designate Sudanese persons according to other relevant sanctions authorities; and
    • Sudan remains on the list of state sponsors of terrorism, which will continue to impose restrictions on certain dealings involving Sudan, including U.S. foreign assistance and restrictions on defense exports and sales.

    Following revocation of the sanctions, U.S. persons will no longer be banned from engaging in most transactions previously prohibited by the Sudanese Sanctions Regulations (31 C.F.R. Part 538).

    The U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the revocation, along with a new general license that authorizes certain transactions.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Department of Treasury Department of State Executive Order

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  • OFAC Settles Alleged Sudanese Sanction Violations with Connecticut-Based Paper Company

    Financial Crimes

    On October 5, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced that it had reached a $372,465 settlement with a Connecticut-based paper company for three alleged violations of Sudanese Sanctions. OFAC asserted that the company “facilitated the sale and shipment of . . . Canadian-origin paper from Canada to Sudan” in April and December 2013. OFAC alleged that each instance of this conduct, which the company did not voluntarily self-disclose, violated OFAC’s Sudanese Sanctions Regulations, 31 C.F.R. part 538. Had the company not settled, OFAC determined that civil monetary penalties ranged from approximately $445,000 to $853,746. In establishing the penalty, OFAC considered that the company: (i) “exhibited reckless disregard for U.S. sanctions requirements by failing to exercise a minimal degree of caution or care with regard to the apparent violations”; (ii) “attempted to conceal the ultimate destination of the goods from its bank”; (iii) knew that supervisory or managerial personnel “had actual knowledge of and were actively involved in, or had reason to know of, the conduct that led to the apparent violations”; (iv) is “sophisticated” but had a non-existent, inadequate compliance program; and (v) failed to initially cooperate with OFAC’s investigation by submitting “materially inaccurate, incomplete, and/or misleading information.” As for mitigating factors, OFAC determined that (i) the company has no prior sanctions history with OFAC, and (ii) the company took remedial action by implementing an OFAC compliance program.

    Financial Crimes Sanctions Settlement Department of Treasury OFAC

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  • South Korean Earthquake Research Official Sentenced for Laundering Bribes

    Financial Crimes

    On October 2, the former director of the earthquake research center of South Korea’s Institute of Geoscience and Mineral Resources 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 him in July, that he 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.

    The former director 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.

    Financial Crimes DOJ Anti-Money Laundering Bribery

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  • Additional Charges for Retired U.S. Army Colonel

    Financial Crimes

    On October 4, the Department of Justice expanded the scope of its indictment against a retired U.S. Army colonel. On August 29, he was charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act after he allegedly solicited bribes from undercover agents who posed as potential investors for infrastructure projects in Haiti. The expanded charges include conspiracy to launder money and violate the Federal Travel Act. Prior FCPA Scorecard coverage of the initial indictment and the related FCPA sting operation can be found here.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA

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  • OFAC Amends Sanctions on Russia’s Financial and Energy Sectors

    Financial Crimes

    On September 29, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) amended Directive 1 and Directive 2 of its Ukrainian-/Russian-related Sectoral Sanctions, as required by the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act of 2017 (H.R. 3364), which was signed into law by President Trump in August. (See previous InfoBytes summary here.) As amended, Directive 1 prohibits U.S. persons from all dealings in equity issued on or after July 16, 2014, of persons determined by OFAC to be part of the Russian financial services sector. Directive 1 also prohibits U.S. persons from dealing in the following debt of such persons: (i) debt of over 90 days maturity issued on or after July 16, 2014, but prior to September 12, 2014; (ii) debt of over 30 days maturity issued on or after September 12, 2014, but before November 28, 2017; and (iii) debt of over 14 days maturity issued on or after November 28, 2017. As amended, Directive 2 prohibits U.S. persons from all dealings in the following debt of persons identified by OFAC to be part of the Russian energy sector: (i) all debt of over 90 days maturity issued on or after July 16, , but before November 28, 2017; and (ii) all debt of over 60 days maturity issued on or after November 28, 2017. OFAC also released updated FAQs to answer questions related to the amended directives.

    Financial Crimes OFAC Sanctions Executive Order Trump

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  • Diagnostic Test Manufacturer Settles FCPA Violations With SEC for $13 Million

    Financial Crimes

    On September 28, the SEC announced that a diagnostic test manufacturer had settled a variety of FCPA books and records and internal control allegations stemming from its sales practices in Africa, Asia, and Latin America, including the failure to improperly characterize and record payments made to government officials in Columbia and India. In concluding the more than two year investigation, the company agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $9.2 million, and disgorgement and interest of approximately $3.8 million. As part of the settlement agreement, the company did not admit or deny the SEC’s findings of fact. As discussed in a previous FCPA Scorecard post, the DOJ announced in March 2016 that it is also investigating the company’s foreign sales practices. That investigation is ongoing. 

    Ongoing FCPA investigations can of course have costly business implications beyond reputational damage; the ongoing FCPA investigation of the company appears to have taken a toll, likely playing a role in the reduced price paid by a global healthcare company in April 2017 to acquire the company.

    Financial Crimes SEC FCPA

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  • OFAC Imposes Additional North Korean Sanctions; Senate Banking Committee Hearing Discusses Multi-Department Efforts

    Financial Crimes

    On September 26, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) announced it was imposing sanctions on an additional eight North Korean banks and 26 individuals connected to North Korean financial networks across the globe. The individuals sanctioned are North Korean nationals who represent North Korean banks operating in China, Russia, Libya, and the UAE, and have been designated “in response to North Korea’s ongoing development of weapons of mass destruction and continued violations of United Nations Security Council Resolutions.” OFAC’s action complements the United Nations Security Council’s resolution UNSCR 2375, adopted September 11, 2017. As a result, property or interests in property of the designated persons within U.S. jurisdictions are blocked.

    These actions closely follow President Trump’s recent issuance of sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.)

    Additionally, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs (Committee) held an open session hearing on September 28 entitled “Evaluating Sanction Enforcement and Policy Options on North Korea: Administration Perspectives.” Committee Chairman Mike Crapo (R-Idaho) opened the hearing to stress that “[m]any Members of Congress, including on this committee, have a keen interest in knowing more about how and when enforcement of these new measures will occur, wondering if last week’s executive order and earlier UN sanctions will be sufficient to achieve U.S. policy goals.” Sen. Crapo also mentioned the Committee’s legislative efforts to “maximize pressure against North Korea.”

    The September 28 hearing—a video of which can be accessed here—included testimony from the following witnesses concerning North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile program and the need to curtail the country’s access to revenue, trade, and financial systems.

    • The Honorable Sigal Madelker, Under Secretary for Terrorism and Financial Crimes, U.S. Department of the Treasury (testimony)
    • Ms. Susan A. Thornton, Acting Assistant Secretary, Bureau of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, U.S. Department of State (testimony)

    Financial Crimes Sanctions OFAC Department of Treasury Senate Banking Committee Department of State

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  • President Trump’s Executive Order Imposes New Sanctions Against North Korea

    Financial Crimes

    On September 21, President Trump announced the issuance of new sanctions targeting individuals, companies, and financial institutions that finance or facilitate trade with North Korea, in addition to tightening trade restrictions. The Executive Order approves broad limitations on any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts “significant” transactions involving North Korea. This includes transactions that “originate from, are destined for, or pass through a foreign bank account that has been determined by the Secretary of the Treasury to be owned or controlled by a North Korean person, or to have been used to transfer funds in which any North Korean person has an interest.” These funds “are blocked and may not be transferred, paid, exported, withdrawn, or otherwise dealt in.” The restrictions also prohibit dealing with persons involved in North Korea’s “construction, energy, financial services, fishing, information technology, manufacturing, medical, mining, textiles, or transportation industries,” and further authorizes the Secretary of the Treasury to restrict U.S.-based correspondent and payable-through accounts.

    These sanctions are in addition to those previously passed by President Trump in August. (See previous InfoBytes coverage here.) Separately, as previously covered in InfoBytes, last month the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions against certain Chinese and Russian entities and individuals, among others, for allegedly aiding North Korea’s efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction.

    In response to President Trump’s latest sanctions, OFAC released updates to its FAQs concerning the additional sanctions. OFAC also issued General License 10 concerning the authorization restrictions to certain vessels and aircraft, and General License 3-A, which addresses permitted “normal service charges.”

    Financial Crimes Trump Sanctions Executive Order OFAC Department of Treasury

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  • Swedish Telecom Company to Pay $965 Million to DOJ and SEC to Settle Bribery Claims

    Financial Crimes

    On September 21, a Swedish telecom company agreed to pay $965 million as a result of criminal and civil actions brought by the DOJ and SEC charging the company with paying bribes to an Uzbek government official from 2007 to 2010. The company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ that required the company to pay a $548.6 million criminal penalty for violating the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, $274 million of which will be paid to the Swedish Prosecution Authority and credited by the DOJ. $40 million of the total criminal penalty consisted of forfeiture by the company on behalf of its indirect subsidiary. According to the criminal information, around 2007, the company began operating a mobile telecommunications business in Uzbekistan through the subsidiary, and the companies allegedly then conspired to make approximately $331 million in bribes to an Uzbek government official to expand their share of the telecommunications market. 

    On the same day, the SEC issued a cease-and-desist order finding that the company violated the anti-bribery and internal accounting controls provisions of the FCPA and ordering the company to disgorge $457 million in illicit profits (but also agreeing to credit up to half that amount if disgorged to the Swedish Prosecution Authority). The SEC found that over the relevant time period, the company “paid bribes to a government official in Uzbekistan in order to obtain and retain business that generated more than $2.5 billion in revenues.” It found that the company paid the Uzbek official $330 million in bribes “funneled through payments for sham lobbying and consulting services to a front company controlled by the official.” The SEC agreed that the $40 million forfeiture to the DOJ would also offset.

    Financial Crimes DOJ SEC Bribery FCPA

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