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On January 18, the Serious Fraud Office (“SFO”) confirmed the opening of an investigation of Chemring Group PLC (“Chemring”) and its subsidiary, Chemring Technology Solutions Limited (“CTSL”) into alleged bribery, corruption, and money laundering. Chemring, a UK-based company that designs and makes products in the aerospace and defense industries, stated that the investigation followed a voluntary report from CTSL relating to “two specific historic contracts.” According to Chemring, the first of these contracts was awarded before the company took over the business group being investigated, while the second contract occurred after the acquisition. Chemring stated that the company will fully cooperate with the SFO’s investigation and provide further updates.
On October 25, Judge Chen of the U.S. District Court for the E.D.N.Y. sentenced Hector Trujillo, the former general secretary of Guatemala’s soccer federation and a former judge, to eight months in prison and ordered restitution of $415,000 and forfeiture of $175,000. His sentence comes after a guilty plea to wire fraud and conspiracy in June 2017. Mr. Trujillo was arrested in 2015 as part of the U.S. government’s investigation into FIFA corruption. Trujillo’s sentencing marks the first individual sentenced among a group of more than 40 individuals who have been indicted or pleaded guilty since 2015.
This sentencing comes as part of the U.S. government’s ongoing investigation into corruption in international soccer which has been ongoing. Previous FCPA Scorecard coverage of the FIFA investigation can be found here.
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.
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.”
Senator Ben Cardin and Republican co-sponsors recently introduced a bill titled the “Combating Global Corruption Act of 2017,” which seeks “to identify and combat corruption in countries, to establish a tiered system of countries with respect to levels of corruption by their governments and their efforts to combat such corruption, and to assess United States assistance to designated countries in order to advance anti-corruption efforts in those countries and better serve United States taxpayers.”
This bill, if enacted, would require the Secretary of State to publish annual rankings of foreign countries split up into three tiers that depend on whether those countries’ governments comply with “minimum standards for the elimination of corruption.” The introduced bill defines corruption as “the exercise of public power for private gain, including by bribery, nepotism, fraud, or embezzlement.”
Once a country’s tier-rank is established, the bill would then require the Secretary of State, Administrator of USAID, and the Secretary of Defense to take various steps, including the creation of a “corruption risk assessment” and “corruption mitigation strategy” for U.S. foreign assistance programs; fortified anti-corruption and clawback provisions in contracts, grants and other agreements; disclosure of beneficial ownership for contractors and other participants; and mechanisms to investigate misappropriated funds.
If passed into law, this bill would create substantial new enforcement powers to combat international corruption activities. And, unlike the current ambiguity under the FCPA regarding its applicability to state-owned or state-controlled enterprises (“SOEs”), as drafted, this bill expressly would cover SOEs. Like the FCPA, however, this bill also contains a broad national security waiver component, if the Secretary of State “certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that such waiver is important to the national security interest of the United States.”
Four Businessmen and Two Mexican Government Officials Plead Guilty in Aircraft Maintenance Bribery Scheme
On December 27, the DOJ announced the unsealing of charges against four businessman and two Mexican officials involved in a scheme to secure aircraft maintenance and repair contracts with Mexican government-owned companies. Douglas Ray, Victor Hugo Valdez Pinon, Kamta Ramnarine, and Daniel Perez all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA, with Ray and Valdez Pinon separately pleading guilty to conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Additionally, Ernesto Hernandez Montemayor and Ramiro Ascencio Nevarez, both former officials with Mexican state-owned companies, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering.
According to the DOJ, the defendants admitted that between 2006 and 2016, millions of dollars were paid to numerous Mexican government officials to secure aircraft parts and servicing contracts with Mexican government-owned companies. The defendants also admitted to laundering the proceeds of the bribery scheme. In total, Ray, Valdez Pinon, Ramnarine, and Perez paid more than $2 million in bribes to Mexican officials, including Hernandez Montemayor and Nevarez.
Navarez was sentenced in May to 15 months in prison; the remaining defendants have yet to be sentenced.
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