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On January 5, 2018, the Department of Justice announced that Joo Hyun Bahn, also known as Dennis Bahn, pleaded guilty to charges that he tried to bribe a Qatari official in connection with a sale of a high rise building complex in Vietnam. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA before U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York. Mr. Bahn was charged with his father Ban Ki Sang, who was an executive at the South Korean construction company Keangnam, and Malcolm Harris, an arts and fashion blogger, in December 2016. Mr. Bahn is the nephew of former UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.
In his guilty plea, Mr. Bahn admitted to joining a conspiracy to make $2.5 million in bribe payments to a Qatari official between February 2014 and May 2015 in an effort to sell the Keangnam-owned Hanoi Landmark Tower and residential buildings in Vietnam, which were worth $800 million. Mr. Bahn admitted that he and Mr. Ban agreed to pay $500,000 to a Qatari official to persuade the official to use the Qatari sovereign wealth fund to purchase the building. The $500,000 was then transferred to Mr. Harris, who posed as an agent for the foreign official, but instead of passing the payment to the foreign official, Mr. Harris double-crossed his codefendants and stole the $500,000.
Although the scheme involved a South Korean construction company and a Qatari foreign official, the Indictment alleged that Mr. Bahn qualified as a “domestic concern” pursuant to 15 USC 78dd-2(h)(1) because he was a lawful permanent resident of the United States and resided in New Jersey at the time.
Mr. Bahn faces up to five years in prison on each count. Mr. Harris previously pleaded guilty to charges of wire fraud and money laundering for his role in the scheme, and was sentenced to 42 months in prison. Mr. Ban has been charged, but not yet arrested.
On November 3, Bio-Rad Laboratories Inc. agreed to pay a total of $55 million to settle DOJ and SEC allegations that the company violated the FCPA in Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. According the SEC's cease-and-desist order, subsidiaries of the bio-medical instrument manufacturer paid $7.5 million in bribes in Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam from 2005 to 2010 in order to win business in violation of Section 30A of the FCPA, which resulted in $35 million in improper profits for the company. Some of the payments were disguised as commissions to foreign agents, in situations where the "agents had no employees and no capacity to perform the purported services for Bio-Rad." The company also allegedly had an "atmosphere of secrecy." Bio-Rad self-disclosed the violations to the government in 2010. As part of the resolution, the company reached a Non-Prosecution Agreement with the DOJ regarding activities in Russia and agreed to a $14.35 million criminal penalty related to books and records and internal controls violations. The resolution with the SEC involved the payment of $40.7 million in disgorgement and pre-judgment interest regarding anti-bribery, books and records, and internal controls violations related to Russia, Thailand, and Vietnam. Of note, and continuing the trend of cross-border cooperation, the SEC in its press release disclosed that numerous international entities had assisted its investigation, including the "Bank of Lithuania, Financial and Capital Market Commission of Latvia, and British Virgin Islands Financial Services Commission." Underscoring the issue, following public disclosure of Bio-Rad's settlement with the SEC regarding alleged payments in Vietnam, news reports indicate that Vietnam's Ministry of Health has ordered a review of hospital purchases from Bio-Rad, and asked for information and assistance from US authorities.
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