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

    Financial Crimes

    On August 29, the DOJ announced that it had unsealed a criminal complaint and FBI affidavit charging a retired U.S. Army colonel “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 he 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.” The retired colonel allegedly received a $50,000 payment from the FBI, which he wired to his non-profit organization. While he 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 he “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.

    Financial Crimes DOJ Bribery Anti-Money Laundering

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  • Swedish Prosecutor Charges Russian Sales Executive with Bribery of Azerbaijan Officials

    Financial Crimes

    On Friday, August 18, a Russian employee of a Swedish branch of a Canadian producer of aircraft and train equipment, was charged by a Swedish prosecutor with aggravated bribery. The sales executive is alleged to have bribed a public official in Azerbaijan to win a contract valued over $300 million to supply Azerbaijan with a signaling system for its railways. The executive was first detained in March 2017 and has been held in custody since that time. If convicted, he faces six years imprisonment and deportation.

    According to a March 2017 report by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), an investigative reporting network spread across Europe, Africa, Asia, and Latin America established in 2006 to conduct transnational investigative reporting to expose global organized crime and corruption, the company was suspected of paying “millions of dollars in bribes to unidentified Azerbaijani officials through a shadowy company registered in the United Kingdom,” which the Swedish prosecutor has characterized as having “no employees or business” but which profited substantially in this deal by purchasing equipment from the company and selling the identical equipment to the company's Azerbaijan affiliate for a profit. According to export records reviewed by the OCCRP, the equipment was delivered directly from the company to Azerbaijan. The report identified the UK intermediary, which, according to an earlier OCCRP report is alleged to have ties to the former president of a russian railways company, and is alleged to have had similar involvement in a contract with the company and Russia.

    Financial Crimes Anti-Corruption Bribery

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  • Macau Real Estate Developer Convicted of Violating FCPA

    Financial Crimes

    On July 27, 2017, a federal jury in the Southern District of New York convicted a Macau real estate developer 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.

    Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering Bribery

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  • International Oil Field Service Company Agrees to Settle FCPA Claim for $29 Million in Disgorgement and Penalties

    Financial Crimes

    An international oil field service company recently settled allegations that the company improperly steered business to the friend of an Angolan official in exchange for that official awarding various oil contracts to the company. In total, the company agreed to pay the SEC $29.2 million, comprising $14 million in disgorgement, $1.2 million in prejudgment interest, and a $14 million penalty. The company’s former vice president also agreed to pay the SEC a $75,000 penalty related to these violations and other accounting irregularities.  

    This is the most recent settlement in a series of FCPA enforcement actions focusing on the company’s procurement processes and operations in various countries. A former subsidiary of the company settled similar FCPA allegations in 2009 related to alleged bribes paid to Nigerian officials to procure contracts in that country.    

    This settlement also highlights the role of whistleblowers in driving FCPA and other enforcement actions. A whistleblower employed by the company first alerted the company to potential FCPA issues in 2010, which resulted in the launching of an investigation into the allegations.

    Financial Crimes FCPA SEC Disgorgement Bribery Whistleblower

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  • Engineering and Construction Firm Receives Declination of FCPA Charges

    Financial Crimes

    On June 21, the DOJ issued a declination letter to attorneys for a Boston-based privately held engineering and construction firm, in which the DOJ declined prosecution and closed an investigation of the firm regarding potential FCPA violations that occurred in India between 2011 and 2015. The 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, the firm 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 the firm's division responsible for India operations and by the firm'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 the firm 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 the firm or otherwise.

    Financial Crimes DOJ FCPA Pilot Program Bribery FCPA

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

    Financial Crimes

    On June 20, 2017, a former banker for an international financial institution 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 the institution's 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).

    Financial Crimes FCPA Bribery

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  • Former Swiss Bank Executive Pleads Guilty in FIFA Investigation

    Financial Crimes

    On June 15, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of New York announced that a citizen of Argentina and a former managing director of a Swiss Bank 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, the former managing director 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.

    Financial Crimes Anti-Money Laundering Bribery FIFA

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