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Hawaiian executive's bribery guilty plea leads to Micronesian official charged with money laundering conspiracy
On February 11, the Department of Justice (DOJ) unsealed conspiracy to commit money laundering charges against a Micronesian government official alleged to have taken bribes to secure engineering and project management contracts from the government of the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM). The charges follow the recent guilty plea by a Hawaiian executive to a charge of conspiracy to bribe the Micronesian official in violation of the FCPA.
According to the DOJ, a Micronesian citizen was a government official in the FSM Department of Transportation, Communications and Infrastructure who administered FSM’s aviation programs. Between 2006 and 2016, the Hawaiian executive’s Hawaii-based engineering and consulting company allegedly paid around $440,000 in bribes in the form of cash, vehicles, and entertainment to FSM officials, including the citizen, to obtain and retain contracts with the FSM government valued at nearly $8 million. The complaint unsealed on Monday contains specific examples of requests by the citizen to the executive for cash gifts and a 2014 Chevy Silverado. According to the executive’s guilty plea, he fulfilled the citizen’s requests and sent wire transfers and the automobile internationally for the citizen’s personal use.
On February 6, the U.K. SFO announced that a former sales executive of an oil-services company had pleaded guilty in the U.K. to 11 counts of bribery regarding payments made in exchange for winning oil-services contracts in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The executive – a British citizen and the former global head of sales for a subsidiary of the company – pleaded guilty to participating in payments of more than $6 million to agents to win contracts worth more than $4 billion in Iraq and Saudi Arabia. The SFO’s investigation of the company regarding suspected bribery and money laundering, which was announced in May 2017, is ongoing, but no other officers or employees are currently charged.
On January 28, DOJ announced charges against the former chief executive and a former senior vice president of a Barbados-based insurance company. The indictment alleges that the the company's executives participated in a scheme to launder approximately $36,000 in bribes to the then-Minister of Industry of Barbados in exchange for his assistance in securing government contracts for the company. According to the indictment, the bribes were laundered through a United States bank account in the name of a dental company located in New York. The former Minister of Industry was arrested in August 2018 and the indictment against him referenced, but did not name, his alleged co-conspirators. The superseding indictment against the three co-defendants and another still unnamed former insurance executive was unsealed on January 18, 2019. Prior Scorecard coverage of the arrest and indictment of the former Minister of Industry can be found here.
The company voluntarily self-disclosed the case to DOJ and received a declination letter from DOJ for its cooperation pursuant to the FCPA Corporate Enforcement Policy. The declination letter required the company to disgorge $93,940.19 in profits received through the conduct at issue. The declination was based, in part, on the company’s termination of all executives and employees involved in the alleged misconduct and in helping DOJ identify the culpable individuals. Prior Scorecard coverage of the declination letter can be found here.
On December 26, 2018, a Brazilian electric utilities company entered into an administrative order to settle the SEC’s claims that the company violated the books and records and internal accounting controls provisions of the FCPA and agreed to pay a civil monetary penalty of $2.5 million.
The company, which is majority-owned by the Brazilian government, is alleged to have – through former officers of its nuclear power generation subsidiary – rigged bids and paid bribes through private construction companies in relation to construction of a nuclear power plant in Brazil. This matter was first announced publicly in October 2016 when the company hired outside counsel to conduct an internal investigation into related conduct.
In entering into this administrative order, the SEC consider the company’s cooperation efforts, including sharing facts discovered in its internal investigation and producing and translating related documents, as well as its efforts towards remediation, including discipline of involved employees, enhancement of internal accounting controls and compliance functions, and adoption of new anti-corruption policies and procedures.
Previous coverage can be found here.
On December 19, a UK Court found former power company Global Sales Director guilty of conspiracy to corrupt in connection with his role in bribing Lithuanian officials to win lucrative power station contracts for the French power and transportation company. He will be sentenced on December 21.
The conviction follows the guilty pleas of the company and two other individuals in the UK in connection with the company’s Lithuanian bribery scheme. According to the SFO, the companies paid Lithuanian politicians more than €5 million (~$6.3 million in today’s USD) in bribes to secure the contracts, valued at €240 million (~$304 million in today’s USD). The SFO also has charged the company and former executives for alleged corruption spanning Hungary, India, Poland, and Tunisia.
In late 2014, the company and various subsidiaries agreed to pay a then-record $772 million fine in connection with FCPA violations spanning numerous countries. For prior FCPA Scorecard coverage of the company, please see here.
On December 11, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) published a study examining the consequences faced by public officials who allegedly accepted bribes. The study analyzed 55 foreign-bribery cases concluded between 2008 and 2013 in which companies based in OECD countries had been sanctioned for bribery. It found that government officials were criminally sanctioned in only one-fifth of the 55 cases studied. An additional 11 actions were still pending at either the investigative or prosecutorial stages. The study also found that none of the countries in which bribes were paid, the demand-side countries, detected that their public officials demanded a bribe. Instead, the study found that the “media plays a major role in international information flow.”
On December 10, a former procurement officer of a Venezuela’s state-owned and state-controlled energy company, pleaded guilty to one count of obstructing an investigation into bribes paid by the owner of U.S.-based companies to Venezuelan government officials in exchange for securing additional business with the company and payment priority on outstanding issues. The former procurement officer, who previously worked for the company in Houston, Texas, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding.
The charge stems from a guilty plea he entered on December 10, 2015, to one count of conspiracy to launder money and one count of making false statements on his federal income tax return. Under the terms of a plea agreement in that case, he agreed to cooperate with the investigation by being interviewed by the United States, and to providing “truthful, complete and accurate information” to government agents and attorneys. In the latest plea, though, he admitted that after his earlier plea, he concealed facts about bribes paid to the company by a target of the investigation, referred to as Co-Conspirator 1 in the indictment. Additionally, he informed Co-Conspirator 1 that U.S. government authorities were investigating Co-Conspirator 1, and provided Co-Conspirator 1 with information about the investigation, including the topics discussed in his meetings with the government. Consequently, Co-Conspirator 1 destroyed evidence and attempted to flee the country in July 2018. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 19, 2019.
On November 19, the SEC announced a settlement with a Texas offshore drilling company based on the improper activities of the company’s predecessor in connection with a Brazilian oil company bribery scheme. The Administrative Order found that the offshore drilling company had “failed to devise a system of internal accounting controls with regard to [its] transactions with [its] former outside director, largest shareholder, and only supplier of drilling assets . . . and failed to properly implement internal accounting controls related to its use of third-party marketing agents,” noting the company’s “ineffective anticorruption compliance program.” According to the Order, these failures permitted payments that “created a risk that [it] was providing or reimbursing funds that [a director] intended to use to make improper payments to" the Brazilian company at the center of a massive FCPA scheme.
The settlement with the SEC concludes the company’s involvement in the Brazilian company's investigations. According to the drilling company, they received a cooperation letter from the DOJ last year confirming the company’s full cooperation in the Brazilian company's investigation, and that the DOJ would not move forward with any actions against the drilling company.
Further coverage of the Brazilian oil company matter is available here.
Two co-conspirators of a billionaire news network owner were sentenced this week as part of the DOJ’s recently unsealed prosecution of a bribery scheme involving over $1 billion paid in bribes to members of the Venezuelan government. According to the DOJ, the owner was indicted under seal in August for conspiracy to violate the FCPA, conspiracy to commit money laundering, and nine counts of money laundering. Two co-conspirators, Florida resident and former Venezuelan National Treasurer, and Chicago resident and former owner of a Dominican Republic bank, each pleaded guilty under seal to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and were sentenced in federal court earlier this week.
According to the owner’s indictment, he allegedly bribed members of the Venezuelan government—including former Venezuelan National Treasurer—in exchange for the right to handle the government’s foreign currency exchange transactions, and then acquired a bank in order to launder the bribe money and other illicit proceeds. To do so, the owner allegedly moved money from Switzerland to accounts in Florida and New York and used it to purchase luxury items such as “jets, a yacht, multiple champion horses, and numerous high-end watches.”
In December 2017, the former Venezuelan National Treasurer pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, admitting to taking bribes in exchange for helping his co-conspirators—including the owner—by choosing them to conduct currency exchanges at favorable rates to the Venezuelan government. As part of his plea, the former Venezuelan National Treasurer agreed to cooperate and pay a forfeiture money judgment of $1 billion through the forfeiture of “real estate, vehicles, horses, watches, aircraft, and bank accounts.” On November 27, 2018, U.S. Southern District of Florida Judge Robin L. Rosenberg sentenced the former Venezuelan National Treasurer to 10 years in prison, the maximum under his plea deal.
In March 2018, Chicago resident and former owner of a Dominican Republic bank took a similar plea deal, pleading guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, admitting to helping the owner and others acquire and then launder money through the bank. On November 29, 2018, he was sentenced to 3 years in prison.
The Miami Herald has also reported that the owner's personal banker was sentenced last month for his role in another money laundering scheme involving a Venezuelan state-owned oil company. Coverage of the company's prosecutions is available here.
The DOJ unsealed two indictments and a guilty plea related to the sprawling Malaysian development fund fraud on November 1 in the Eastern District of New York. A Malaysian financier and a former banker were charged with conspiring to launder billions of dollars embezzled from the investment development fund, and conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA. The former banker was also charged with conspiring to violate the FCPA by circumventing the internal accounting controls of a U.S. financial institution, which underwrote $6 billion in bonds issued by the fund. He was a managing director at the bank. Another former banker at the same financial institution, pleaded guilty to the same charges. He has been ordered to forfeit $43.7 million.
These three and others allegedly conspired to bribe Malaysian and Abu Dhabi officials to obtain business for the financial institution, including the fund's bond deals. They also allegedly conspired to launder the proceeds through purchasing luxury New York real estate, artwork, and financing major Hollywood films, such as The Wolf of Wall Street.
For prior coverage of the fund's scheme, please see here.
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