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Four Individuals, Including Ban Ki-moons Brother and Nephew, Face FCPA Charges Related to Vietnam Project
On January 10, the DOJ announced the unsealing of an indictment charging four individuals, including the nephew and brother of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, with violations of the FCPA and other offenses in connection with the attempted $800 million sale of a commercial building known as Landmark 72 in Hanoi, Vietnam. According to the government, Ban Ki Sang and Joo Hyun Bahn conspired to bribe a governmental official of an unnamed Middle Eastern country to get his country to purchase the building from Keangnam Enterprises Co., where Ban was then a senior executive. To facilitate the sale of Landmark 72, Keangnam hired Ban’s son Bahn to secure an investor for the deal.
According to the allegations, Bahn and Ban agreed to pay the foreign official $500,000 initially, and $2 million upon completion of the sale, through co-defendant Malcolm Harris, who had falsely held himself out as an agent of the foreign official; Harris Sang Woo allegedly assisted in obtaining the initial $500,000. In a twist, according to the DOJ, Harris then stole the money and used it for personal expenses instead of paying any bribes. After the Landmark 72 deal failed to go through, Bahn allegedly lied and provided forged emails from the foreign official and other documents to Keangnam regarding the status of the deal and stole approximately $225,000 that was advanced by Keangnam to cover brokerage expenses.
On November 22, the U.S. government filed a superseding indictment against a Macau real estate developer and his assistant in connection with their alleged involvement in an international bribery scheme. The superseding indictment included new charges that both men violated the FCPA in connection with alleged payments to then-UN ambassadors from Antigua and the Dominican Republic in exchange for official actions to benefit the defendants’ real estate company. The bribery charges contained in the original October 2015 indictment concerned only domestic bribery charges brought under 18 U.S.C. § 666, and not the FCPA.
It is not clear why the U.S. government chose to add the FCPA charges now as opposed to bringing them in the original indictment. First, there did not appear to be any FCPA jurisdictional hurdles in the original indictment. Moreover, one of the alleged bribe recipients named in both the original indictment and superseding indictment – the then-UN ambassador from Antigua – is and always was a “foreign official” under the FCPA. The UN has been designated a public international organization, and individuals associated with these organizations are “foreign officials” under the FCPA.