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Lighthouses and Buoys – Part II

Earlier this week, the DOJ announced (see here) the indictment of John Warwick, the former President of Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation. Warwick is charged (see here) with conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian officials to obtain contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterways. The substance of the allegations against Warwick are substantively similar to the previous charges against Warwick’s co-conspirator Charles Jumet (see here for the prior post). As noted in that post, Jumet pleaded guilty.

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I hate to be a Grinch this time of year, but why does DOJ continually use the term “foreign government official” in its charging documents when that term/element doesn’t even appear in the FCPA? (see para. 1 of the indictment). For more on the incorrect/inconsistent use of this key FCPA term see here.

Indicting a “Foreign Official”

Yesterday, the DOJ announced (see here) the unsealing of an indictment (see here) against Joel Esquenazi, Carlos Rodriguez, and Marguerite Grandison which charges (among other things) conspiracy to violate the FCPA and substantive FCPA violations for an alleged scheme to bribe two former employees of Haiti Teleco, the alleged “state-owned national telecommunications company.”

Esquenazi and Rodriguez are former executives of a privately owned, Florida-based telecommunications company and Grandison was the President of Telecom Consulting Services Corp., a Florida based company which served as an intermediary.

The unsealed indictment is the latest chapter in this matter; in May 2009, the DOJ announced (see here) the guilty pleas of Juan Diaz and Antonio Perez in connection with the same scheme.

This matter is also yet another example of an FCPA enforcement action in which the “foreign official” is an employee of an alleged state-owned or state-controlled entity.

That, however, is not why this enforcement action is noteworthy.

It is noteworthy because DOJ also indicted Robert Antoine and Jean Rene Duperval – the alleged “foreign officials.” According to the indictment, Antoine and Duperval both served as the “Director of International Relations of Haiti Teleco” and were responsible for negotiating contracts with international telecommunications companies on behalf of Haiti Teleco.

Of course, the charges were not FCPA charges, because the FCPA only covers “bribe-payers” not “bribe-takers” (see here, here, for prior posts on this subject).

Rather the charges against Antoine and Duperval were money laundering conspiracy and/or substantive money laundering charges.

According to the DOJ release, Antoine is from “Miami and Haiti” and Duperval is from “Miramar, Fla. and Haiti.” Further, according to the indictment, both individuals had bank accounts in the U.S. and these accounts were used in connection with the bribery scheme. (I wonder if Washington Mutual, Wachovia, or Miami Federal Credit Union were aware that Haitian “foreign officials” were among its customers!)

To my knowledge this is the first time “foreign officials” have been specifically charged as defendants in connection with an FCPA enforcement action. This indictment of “foreign officials” comes on the heels of AG Holder’s recent speech (see here) in which he stated that the U.S. government was committed to recovering funds obtained by “foreign officials” through bribery.

A Bribery Scheme Hatched at the “Eggs Benedict Place”

The DOJ announced today (see here) that John Joseph O’Shea was recently arrested for his alleged role in a conspiracy to bribe Mexican foreign officials to secure contracts with the Comision Federal de Electridad (“CFE”), an apparent Mexican state-owned utility company (see here). In addition to charging conspiracy to violate the FCPA, the indictment contains twelve substantive FCPA charges (among other charges).

According to the unsealed indictment (see here), O’Shea was the General Manager of Texas Business A, a business that provides products and services to electrical utilities in a number of foreign markets. According to the indictment, one of O’Shea’s responsibilities was approving payments to sales representatives.

According to the indictment, Texas Business A is a business unit of Subsidiary A (a company with its principal place of business in Sugar Land, Texas) and Subsidiary A, in turn, is a subsidiary of Corporation A (a company headquartered and incorporated in Switzerland with publicly-traded American Depositary Shares on the NYSE).

In other words, both Subsidiary A and Corporation A are subject to the FCPA and may be the focus of a forthcoming enforcement action. Also of note is that Mexican Company X, Intermediary Company O (a company incorporated in and headquartered in Mexico) and Intermediary Company S (a company incorporated in Panama and headquartered in Mexico) are all alleged to be “an agent of a domestic concern” under 78dd-2(h)(1). DOJ recently noted (see here) that it is willing to go after agents and intermediaries which facilitate bribe payments and the “agent of a domestic concern” designation would seem to be setting the table for a possible enforcement action against such companies as well.

According to the indictment, one customer Texas Business A did business with is CFE and officials N,J,C and G at CFE had influence over decisions concerning Texas Business A’s contracts with CFE

(Sorry for the alphabet soup, but this is how the indictment reads).

According to the indictment, Texas Business A obtained multiple contracts with CFE while using Mexican Company X (including its principal, Fernando Maya Basurto) as its sales representative under several commission-based agreements.

The indictment alleges that O’Shea conspired and agreed with Basurto, Subsidiary A, Texas Business A, and the intermediary companies and others to make improper payments to Mexican “foreign officials” to obtain or retain business for Subsidiary A and Texas Business A in violation of the FCPA and that O’Shea did indeed offer, authorize, or make the improper payments indirectly through others to the CFE officials in violation of the FCPA.

According to the indictment, the payments assisted Texas Business A secure two contracts with CFE worth approximately $81 million in revenue.

According to the indictment, the improper payments were concealed through a series of financial transactions, first to U.S. bank accounts in the name of Basurto and certain of his family members, then through false invoices received from Basurto in the names of the intermediary companies, and then to the “foreign officials.”

According to the indictment, after O’Shea was terminated from Texas Business A, he, Basurto, and others tried to cover up their conduct after learning that Corporation A had disclosed the suspected payments to the DOJ, SEC and Mexican authorities.

In describing O’Shea’s cover up, the indictment states, “On or about April 27, 2005, O’Shea sent Basurto an e-mail that read, in part, “It seems my lawyer thinks it is OK to use a private e-mail such as yahoo, as it would seem much more difficult for anyone to get the exchanges – if it is a company email it belongs to them. I believe [sic] we should alter opur [sic] normal routine; meaning not meet at the ‘eggs benedict’ place.”

Consistent with DOJ’s recent statements on this issue, the indictment seeks from O’Shea forfeiture of approximately $3 million in proceeds derived from his improper conduct.

As noted in the DOJ’s release, Basurto recently pleaded guilty to a one-count criminal information (see here) charging him with conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The DOJ news release also notes that a Mexican citizen had pleaded guilty for his role in the bribery scheme.

Lighthouses and Buoys

Every so often, things sort of appear out of “left field.”

This is not the only blog which covers the FCPA and several law firms keep rolling statistics as to FCPA enforcement actions, indictments, pleas, etc.

Even so, has anyone ever heard of Charles Paul Edward Jumet or Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation?

Forget the indictment (that was apparently filed on November 10th – see here), Jumet pleaded guilty today to conspiring to violate the FCPA (among other charges). See here for the DOJ release.

Get ready to a make flow chart, because the facts are rather confusing.

The big picture, according to the indictment and plea, is that Jumet and others conspired to “pay money secretly to Panamanian government officials in return for awarding Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation (“PECC” – a company organized under the laws of Panama with an office in Virginia) contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterways…” (see indictment p. 4). Jumet, a U.S. citizen, was the VP of PECC and later its President.

The “foreign officials” were: Government Official A (the Administrator of Panama’s National Maritime Ports Authority) (“APN”); Government Official B (a Deputy Administrator and Administrator of APN); and Government Official C (“a very high-ranking executive official of the Republic of Panama”).

According to the indictment, Jumet and others designated “Warmspell Holding Company” and “Soderville Corporation” as shareholders of PECC as a means of giving corrupt payments to the officials in the form of “dividend” payments or “bearer” shares.

According to indictment, Soderville “belonged to Government Official A” and Warmspell “corporate officers were relatives of Government Official B.”

According to the DOJ release, “[a]s part of his plea agreement, Jumet has agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice in its ongoing investigation.”

Also out of “left-field,” since when did the Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement begin to enforce the FCPA?

Para. 3 of the indictment says that “[i]nvestigation of violations of the FCPA … fall within the jurisdiction of both the [FBI] and the United States Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement.”

An FCPA Triangle

First it was the company – Willsbros Group Inc. (see here).

Then, it was the company’s employees – Jim Bob Brown (see here) and Jason Steph (see here).

Finally, it is the company’s consultant – Paul Novak (see here).

An FCPA triangle of sorts.

Don’t hold your breath waiting for an FCPA square because, as has been noted in previous posts, the final piece of the puzzle … the “foreign official” will not be happening anytime soon as the FCPA only applies to the “briber-giver” not the “bribe-taker.”

As noted in the DOJ release, Novak (a former consultant for Willbros International Inc. – a subsidiary of Willbros Group Inc.) pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA in connection with payments to Nigerian “foreign officials.”

Assistant Attorney General Breuer (the blog’s “person of the week” given his frequent mention here in the last few days) had this to say:

“The use of intermediaries to pay bribes will not escape prosecution under the FCPA. The Department will continue to hold accountable all the players in an FCPA scheme – from the companies and their executives who hatch the scheme, to the consultant they retain to carry it out.”

Of course, there still must be jurisdiction over the consultant, but this was not a problem in the Novak matter as he is a U.S. citizen and thus subject both to territorial jurisdiction (i.e. U.S. nexus – see 78dd-2(a)) or nationality jurisdiction (see 78dd-2(i)).

This isn’t the first time the DOJ has gone after consultants or agents. In March 2009, the DOJ unsealed indictments against U.K. citizens Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan for their alleged roles in the KBR/Halliburton Nigeria bribery scheme. (see here for the DOJ release, here for the indictment).

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