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Roundup

Firtash extradition, scrutiny alerts and updates, spot-on observation, and refreshing words. It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Firtash Extradition

In April 2014, the DOJ announced the unsealing of a criminal indictment charging six individuals “with participating in an alleged international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of state and central government officials in India to allow the mining of titanium minerals.” (See here for the prior post).

Among those charged was Dmitry Firtash, a high-profile Ukrainian businessman.

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Austrian Judge Denies Extradition Request, Calls DOJ’s Case Against Firtash “Politically Motivated” And Lacking “Sufficient Proof”

Denied

In the DOJ’s self-declared “new era of FCPA enforcement,” it has been very successful in exercising its leverage against risk averse corporate defendants to secure settlements largely resolved through resolution vehicles not subjected to any meaningful judicial scrutiny.

Yet, when the DOJ actually is put in a position to prove an FCPA case to someone other than itself or to defend other aspects of its case, the DOJ has generally struggled.  (See here for “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses is Acceptable?”).

As highlighted in this prior post, in April 2014 the DOJ criminally charged Dmitry Firtash, a high-profile Ukrainian businessman, and several others  “with participating in an alleged international racketeering conspiracy involving bribes of state and central government officials in India to allow the mining of titanium minerals.”

Prior to the April 2014 unsealed indictment, Firtash was arrested in Austria and thereafter paid $174 million to post bail.

Responding to the U.S. criminal charges, as noted in this prior post, Firtash released a video which insisted he is an innocent party caught at the center of a “battlefield for the two biggest global players of Russia and the USA”.

As highlighted last week prior to an Austrian court ruling on the U.S.’s request to extradite Firtash, “Firtash’s lawyers will argue that his arrest — on charges of bribing officials in India to secure a titanium mining deal that never materialized — was really an effort by the United States to remove him from public life in Ukraine, where he controls major business interests and still holds considerable clout” (quoting from the New York Times article).

As reported by the New York Times, an Austrian judge refused last week to order the extradition of Firtash “siding with defense lawyers who said the American request was politically motivated.”

According to the article:

“The ruling, by Judge Christoph Bauer of the Landesgerichtsstrasse Regional Court in Vienna, amounted to a scathing rebuke of the Justice and State Departments, and reflected the diminished credibility of the United States authorities, even in the eyes of a European ally.

Judge Bauer said that he did not doubt the veracity of two witnesses cited by American prosecutors in their filings, “but whether these witnesses even existed,” because the Justice Department repeatedly refused to provide requested information or respond to questions.

At a hearing that stretched late into the evening, Mr. Firtash’s defense team sought to demolish the American case and discredit the Justice Department’s extradition request.

The main thrust of the team’s arguments, and the issue that clearly dominated the attention of Judge Bauer, was that the case was directed by the State Department in pursuit of larger American foreign policy goals.

[…]

In perhaps their most electrifying argument, Mr. Firtash’s lawyers asserted that an initial request by the United States for his arrest, on Oct. 30, 2013, was directly tied to a trip to Ukraine by an assistant secretary of state, Victoria Nuland, in which she sought to prevent Mr. Yanukovych from backing out of a promise to sign sweeping political and trade agreements with Europe.

Ms. Nuland left Washington on the day the arrest request was submitted toAustria. The request was rescinded four days later, said a lawyer, Christian Hausmaninger, after Ms. Nuland came to believe she had received assurances from Mr. Yanukovych that he would sign the accords.

From that point, nothing happened in the Indian bribery case, Mr. Hausmaninger said, until Feb. 26 — four days after Mr. Yanukovych was ousted after months of street protests.

The arrest request was renewed then, and the Austrian authorities detained Mr. Firtash two weeks later, the same day the new Ukrainian prime minister, Arseniy P. Yatsenyuk, was visiting President Obama at the White House.

The Justice Department has denied any political motivation in the case.

In a statement issued by the State and Justice Departments, the government said it was “disappointed” by the ruling and hoped for an appeal.

[…]

Judge Bauer said he had concluded that the American authorities had been after Mr. Firtash since at least 2006 and he noted that a finding of political motivation was sufficient to reject extradition even if a crime had occurred.

“America obviously saw Firtash as somebody who was threatening their economic interests,” Judge Bauer said, explaining his decision from the bench. But he also said the United States had not provided coherent evidence of a crime either: “There just wasn’t sufficient proof.”

The Firtash enforcement action is certainly not the first Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against a foreign national in which the DOJ has suffered extradition defeats.  (See here for a prior guest post regarding Victor Kozeny).

 

Friday Roundup

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Exasperated, skittish, checking in, scrutiny alerts and updates, and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday roundup.

Exasperated

This recent post highlighted Assistant Attorney General Leslie Caldwell’s recent speech in which she stated – in reference to FCPA internal investigations – “we do not except companies to aimlessly boil the oil.”

This recent Law360 article notes that some attorneys are exasperated by Caldwell’s remarks.  The article states:

“[D]efense attorneys have balked at the idea that they’re spending too much time or money on investigations they’re conducting in large part for the government’s sake, saying they’re not willfully adding unnecessary work to an FCPA probe.

Many companies still feel like they’re being forced to walk the fine line between investigating problems thoroughly enough to satisfy the government without making it seem like they’re holding something back or impeding an investigation, according to Day Pitney LLP partner Bob Appleton.

“On the one hand they’re saying, ‘Be fast and don’t do an over-thorough job,’ but on the other hand, they’re saying, ‘If you only partially disclose you’ll get in trouble,’” said Appleton, a former assistant U.S. attorney.

And the costs of an investigation aren’t just limited to what a company self-reports, since the government will often then ask how the company can be sure the problem isn’t popping up anywhere else, according to Colleen P. Mahoney, partner at Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLP.

“One of the biggest challenges is the expense after it starts,” Mahoney said about FCPA investigations at a Practicing Law Institute event Friday.

At the PLI event, SEC enforcement chief Andrew Ceresney said it was up to a company to decide what law firm to retain and how deep to investigate a potential bribery matter.

“We’re not micromanaging your internal investigation,” he said.”

Numerous posts on FCPA Professor have highlighted the staggering amount of pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses (see also “FCPA Ripples“).

Speaking of which, Key Energy Services disclosed yesterday $18 million in expenses – for the first quarter of 2015 -“related to the previously disclosed Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) investigations.”

I’ve had several conversations with FCPA practitioners about this issue.  For what it is worth, the common response is something along the following lines: FCPA practitioner agrees that pre-enforcement action professional fees and expenses have spun out of control in many instances, but FCPA practitioner insists that his/her firm is not part of the problem.

Other practitioners are also pushing back as to other aspects of Caldwell’s recent speech – namely “what cooperation looks like”.  In this recent post on the FCPA Blog an anonymous contributor states:

 “When client companies and I have opted to cooperate early on and open up all information and records to the DOJ investigative units, I have seen the FCPA investigative team to be less interested in whether facts or evidence show violations or point to evidence raising red flags, as to how the client (and lawyer also) is bowing and mewling in anguish and sorrow before the government.

Provided the client is willing to genuflect and cry out mea culpa and beg for mercy (all three are required) there can be a happy and acceptable outcome in correcting corporate deficiencies and reaching an early valid resolution.

Executives who have somewhat less capacity to grovel underfoot are punished with the promise of crippling expansions of the process including raids and countless subpoenas to uninvolved officers, employees, consultants and accountants.

My experience is that this is not based on early findings of probable cause, but rather a haughty outrage that there was insufficient willingness to self-immolate.”

Skittish

Much has been written about whether the FCPA and its enforcement deters foreign investment.  (See here for instance).

Companies obviously make foreign investment decisions based on a host of legal and non-legal risks and thus empirically separating and measuring the impact of FCPA enforcement on foreign investment decisions is difficult.  Moreover, despite the general rise in FCPA enforcement concerning conduct in certain high risk jurisdictions such as China, India, and Brazil, there continues to be vast amounts of foreign direct investment in those countries by companies subject to the FCPA prohibitions.

Any “evidence” that the FCPA and its enforcement deters foreign investment thus tends to be anecdotal.

Following up on this prior post regarding Cambodia, the Phnom Penh Post reports:

“Despite high-profile US companies like Coca-Cola announcing plans to expand their footprint in the Kingdom, foreign investment from the US remains low compared to regional heavyweights. Large US businesses appear reluctant in setting up in the Kingdom due to corruption concerns, an unpredictable regulatory environment, and a lack of economic attractiveness that allows US interests to thrive.

[…]

Corruption remains one of the major factors keeping US companies away. According to an American Chamber of Commerce survey for 2015, 82 per cent of American businesses in Cambodia were dissatisfied with corruption – the second highest in the region after Laos.”

Checking In

Way back in 2010, Steven Jacobs, the former President of Macau Operations for Las Vegas Sands Corp., filed a civil lawsuit against Las Vegas Sands (LVS) in which Jacobs alleged various improprieties at LVS including in the FCPA context.

As noted in this Bloomberg article, Sheldon Adelson, the billionaire founder and chairman of LVS, recently testified in open court about the case and stated, among other things, that “after four years of investigating, they [the DOJ and SEC]  haven’t found a shred of evidence yet.”

Scrutiny Alerts and Updates

CSC / ServiceMesh

CSC is a Virginia-based IT company and in October 2013 it acquired acquire ServiceMesh, a cloud management company.  Various reports note that Eric Pulier, the former CEO of ServiceMesh, and head of the ServiceMesh division within CSC since ServiceMesh was acquired by that company, has left the company.

CSC sent the following statement to media about Pulier’s departure:

“On March 26, 2015 Eric Pulier was notified that his actions involving payments from the ACE Foundation—an organization founded by Mr. Pulier and not related to CSC—to former IT executives of Commonwealth Bank of Australia, a CSC client, violated CSC’s code of conduct related to conflicts of interests and appearance of improprieties. Mr. Pulier was further notified that these violations were grounds for termination of his employment.”

PTC

In this release, PTC stated:

“We have, since making a voluntary disclosure to the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and the Department of Justice, been cooperating to provide information to those agencies concerning expenditures by certain of our business partners in China and by our China business, including for travel and entertainment, that apparently benefitted employees of customers regarded as state owned enterprises in China. This matter involves issues regarding compliance with laws, including the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Negotiations with the SEC to reach a resolution of its investigation have begun but have not been concluded. We expect to begin negotiations with the Department of Justice to resolve its investigation in the near future. Resolution of this matter is likely to include fines and penalties. Given the uncertainty regarding whether settlements can be reached and, if reached, on what terms, we are not able to estimate a range of reasonably possible loss with regard to any such settlements and have not recorded any liability in connection with this matter. If settlements are reached, we believe that the associated financial liability could be material to our results of operations for the fiscal period in which the liability is recorded. Further, any settlement or other resolution of this matter could have collateral effects on our business in China, the United States and elsewhere.”

Braskem SA

Brazil-based Braskem recently disclosed in an SEC filing:

“In the context of anti-corruption allegations against certain individuals and entities in Brazil, including Petrobras, we were mentioned in allegations of improper payments made in order to receive favorable treatment in connection with certain contracts that we are party to with Petrobras. We have not received notice of any proceeding or investigation involving us that has been commenced in Brazil or the United States in connection with these allegations.

Although we have certain procedures in place, we have implemented additional procedures and controls to monitor our compliance with applicable anti-corruption laws and as a result of the recent allegations against us, have engaged Brazilian and U.S. legal counsel to conduct a voluntary internal investigation of this matter.  If any of these allegations prove to be true, or if we or any of our subsidiaries, or joint venture partners fails to comply with any of these laws, we could be subject to applicable civil or criminal penalties, which could adversely affect our overall performance.”

[…]

In early March 2015, declarations made by defendants in lawsuits filed against third parties were made public, in which Braskem and two of its former executive officers were cited in allegations of supposed improper payments between 2006 and 2012 to benefit the Company in raw-material supply agreements entered into with Petrobras. As of April 24, 2015, to the knowledge of the management, Braskem has not received any notification of the filing of any proceeding or investigation by Brazilian or U.S. authorities.

In light of such facts, the Company’s Management and Board of Directors approved in April the internal plan for investigation into the allegations (“Investigation”) to be carried out by law firms experienced in similar cases in the United States and in Brazil.  The law firms will work under the coordination of an ad hoc committee formed by members of its Board of Directors, specially created for this purpose.

In addition, the following measures have already been taken:

i)    Voluntary announcement about the Investigation and periodical updates sent to regulatory agencies of capital markets in Brazil (Securities and Exchange Commission of Brazil – CVM) and the United States (Securities and Exchange Commission – SEC, and the Department of Justice – DOJ);

ii)    Publication of two Material Fact notices and one Notice to the Market to clarify the news reports and to keep shareholders and the market informed of actions taken by the Company;

iii)   Updating the Audit Board and external auditors about the progress of the Investigation and of the actions already taken.

Braskem and its subsidiaries are subject to a series of anticorruption and anti-bribery laws in the countries where they operate. To reduce the likelihood of infringement of such laws, a series of procedures and controls were implemented and are continuously being improved.

On the other hand, if any of the allegations proves to be true, the Company may be subject to material penalties envisaged in law. At this moment, the Company Management believes that it is not possible to estimate the duration or outcome of the Investigation and, consequently, whether it will have any impact on future financial statements.

The Management is committed to taking all the necessary measures to clarify the facts and will keep the market informed of any progress on this matter.”

United Technologies

Recently, the company disclosed:

“As previously disclosed, in December 2013 and January 2014, UTC made voluntary disclosures to the United States Department of Justice (DOJ), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Division of Enforcement and the United Kingdom’s Serious Fraud Office to report the status of its internal investigation regarding a non-employee sales representative retained by United Technologies International Operations, Inc. (UTIO) and IAE for the sale of Pratt & Whitney and IAE engines and aftermarket services, respectively, in China.  On April 7, 2014, the SEC notified UTC that it was conducting a formal investigation and issued a subpoena to UTC.  UTC continues to cooperate fully with the investigations and has responded to requests for documents and information.  The DOJ and SEC also continue to request information, and the SEC issued a second subpoena on March 9, 2015 seeking documents related to internal allegations of alleged violations of anti-bribery laws from UTC’s aerospace and commercial businesses, including but not limited to Otis businesses in China.  Because the investigations are ongoing, we cannot predict the outcome or the consequences thereof at this time.”

For the Reading Stack

The NY Times goes in depth regarding the U.S’s attempt to extradite Dmitry Firtash, a Ukrainian national criminally indicted in April 2014 along with others (see here for the prior post).  According to the article:

“An Austrian judge will issue a crucial ruling in the case on Thursday at an extradition hearing here, where Mr. Firtash’s lawyers will argue that his arrest — on charges of bribing officials in India to secure a titanium mining deal that never materialized — was really an effort by the United States to remove him from public life in Ukraine, where he controls major business interests and still holds considerable clout. The Justice Department has repeatedly declined to discuss the case because it is an active prosecution, but the United States attorney’s office in Chicago, which led the investigation, has flatly denied any political motivations.

[…]

Andras Knopp, a Hungarian businessman and longtime associate of Mr. Firtash’s who is also charged in the case, said that the United States authorities had made no effort to extradite him, or even to talk to him about the case, even though he was at the center of the Indian titanium deal …”.

*****

The most recent edition of the always informative Debevoise & Plimpton FCPA Update is here.  Among the topics discussed are developments in India including potential amendments to the Prevention of Corruption Act providing for liability for a commercial organizations whose employees bribe but also creating a defense for a commercial organization commercial organization if it can prove it had “adequate procedures” in place to prevent bribery.

*****

This Bloomberg article (“The Dinner Proposal That Led United Into Corruption Probe”) begins:

“United Airlines Inc. was seeking hundreds of millions of dollars in public investment for the airport in Newark when its chief executive dined with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie’s top Port Authority official in September 2011.

Jeffery Smisek, United’s chief executive officer, wanted funding for several projects, including an estimated $600 million extension of the PATH train from downtown Newark to the airport, as the airline worked through its merger with Continental Airlines.

Halfway through dinner at Novita, an Italian restaurant in Manhattan, Port Authority Chairman David Samson surprised the group with a request of his own. He complained that he and his wife had grown weary of the trip to their weekend home in Aiken, South Carolina, because the best flight out of Newark was to Charlotte, North Carolina, 150 miles away. Until 2009, Continental had run direct service from Newark to Columbia, South Carolina, 100 miles closer.

In a tone described by one observer as “playful, but not joking,” Samson asked: Could United revive that route? An awkward silence fell over the table.

Though the United CEO didn’t agree to the request at the dinner, according to the accounts of some who attended, the airline ultimately added the money-losing route that became known as “the chairman’s flight.” Now federal prosecutors are looking into whether its genesis crossed the line from legitimate bargaining into illegal activity.”

*****

A good weekend to all.

Friday Roundup

Roundup2

Looking for talent – got talent, FBI announcement, Bourke related, to FCPA Inc., and for the reading stack.  It’s all here in the Friday Roundup.

Looking for FCPA Talent?  Got Talent

If your firm or organization is looking for either a summer associate or full-time lawyer with a solid foundation in the FCPA, FCPA enforcement, and FCPA compliance, please e-mail me at fcpaprofessor@gmail.com. I teach one of the only FCPA specific law school classes in the country (see here) and my Southern Illinois University law students who excelled in the class have, I am confident in saying, more practical skills and knowledge on FCPA topics than other law students.

I can recommend several students and I encourage you to give them an opportunity.

FBI Announcement

The FBI recently announced the establishment of international corruption squads.  In pertinent part, the release states:

“The FCPA … makes it illegal for U.S. companies, U.S. persons, and foreign corporations with certain U.S. ties to bribe foreign officials to obtain or retain business overseas. And we take these crimes very seriously—foreign bribery has the ability to impact U.S. financial markets, economic growth, and national security. It also breaks down the international free market system by promoting anti-competitive behavior and, ultimately, makes consumers pay more.

We’re seeing that foreign bribery incidents are increasingly tied to a type of government corruption known as kleptocracy, which is when foreign officials steal from their own government treasuries at the expense of their citizens. And that’s basically what these foreign officials are doing when they accept bribes in their official capability for personal gain, sometimes using the U.S. banking system to hide and/or launder their criminal proceeds.

The FBI—in conjunction with the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Fraud Section—recently announced another weapon in the battle against foreign bribery and kleptocracy-related criminal activity: the establishment of three dedicated international corruption squads, based in New York City, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C.

Special Agent George McEachern, who heads up our International Corruption Unit at FBI Headquarters, explains that the squads were created to address the national and international implications of corruption. “The FCPA allows us to target the supply side of corruption—the entities giving the bribes,” he said. “Kleptocracy cases allow us to address the demand side—the corrupt officials and their illicit financial assets. By placing both threats under one squad, we anticipate that an investigation into one of these criminal activities could potentially generate an investigation into the other.”

Corruption cases in general are tough to investigate because much of the actual criminal activity is hidden from view. But international corruption cases are even tougher because the criminal activity usually takes place outside of the U.S. However, members of these three squads—agents, analysts, and other professional staff—have a great deal of experience investigating white-collar crimes and, in particular, following the money trail in these crimes. And they’ll have at their disposal a number of investigative tools the Bureau uses so successfully in other areas—like financial analysis, court-authorized wiretaps, undercover operations, informants, and sources.

Partnerships with our overseas law enforcement counterparts—facilitated by our network of legal attaché offices situated strategically around the world—are an important part of our investigative arsenal. The FBI also takes part in a number of international working groups, including the Foreign Bribery Task Force, to share information with our partners and help strengthen investigative efforts everywhere. And we coordinate with DOJ’s Fraud Section—which criminally prosecutes FCPA violators—and the Securities and Exchange Commission—which uses civil actions to go after U.S. companies engaging in foreign bribery.

Our new squads will help keep the Bureau at the forefront of U.S. and global law enforcement efforts to battle international corruption and kleptocracy.”

Bourke Related

This October 2013 post highlighted a Democracy Now program that attempted to re-script the Frederic Bourke FCPA enforcement action.

Democracy Now returns to the story in this recent interview with former U.S. Senator George Mitchell.  Mitchell, like Bourke, invested in the Azeri project at issue, but unlike Bourke was not prosecuted.

Set forth below is the Q&A:

Democracy Now: Do you believe [Bourke] is a whistleblower, and do you believe that he should be exonerated.

Mitchell: Well, I believe that he should not have been convicted in the trial, in which conviction did occur. I think it was a very unfortunate circumstance, and as you describe it, regrettable from Rick Bourke’s standpoint.

Democracy Now: Do you believe he should now be exonerated, to be able to clear his name fully?

Mitchell: Well, yes, but I’m not sure what process would occur. He was tried, convicted. The conviction was upheld on appeal. But, as I said, I repeat, I do not believe he should have been convicted in the first place.

As noted in the prior post, while each is entitled to his/her own opinion about the Bourke case, the fact is – the case received more judicial scrutiny than arguably any other FCPA enforcement action.

To FCPA Inc.

It happens so often it is difficult to keep track of, but I try my best.

In the latest example of a DOJ FCPA enforcement attorney departing for FCPA Inc., Sidley Austin recently announced that James Cole (former DOJ Deputy Attorney General) ” has joined the firm in Washington, D.C. as a partner in its White Collar: Government Litigation & Investigations practice.”  As stated in the release, ““[Cole’s] experience at the highest levels of law enforcement will enable him to counsel our clients facing the most difficult and complex challenges.”  Cole’s law firm bio states that he will focus “his practice on the full range of federal enforcement and internal investigation matters, with a particular emphasis on cross-border and multi-jurisdictional matters.”

While at the DOJ, Cole frequently articulated DOJ FCPA positions and enforcement policies.  (See here for example).

For the Reading Stack

From Professor Peter Henning in his New York Times Dealbook column – “Lawmakers Focus on How the SEC Does Its Job.”

From Miller & Chevalier attorneys – “DOJ is Losing the Battle to Prosecute Foreign Executives.”  An informative article regarding the DOJ’s struggles to prosecute foreign nationals for a variety of offenses (antitrust, FCPA, etc.).

An informative article here in the New York Law Journal by Marcus Asner and Daniel Ostrow  titled “A New Focus On Victims’ Rights in FCPA Restitution Cases.”

An interesting read here from the Wall Street Journal regarding China National Cereals, Oils and Foodstuffs Corp (Cotfco), a state-owned enterprise.

“In a few short years, Cofco has spent a couple billion dollars quietly buying up Australian cane fields, French vineyards and soybean pastures in Brazil, helping it become one of the world’s largest food companies. Now, Cofco is exploring deals in the world’s biggest exporter of agricultural commodities: the U.S.”

Weekend assignment:  are Cofco employees Chinese “foreign officials” under the 11th Circuit’s Esquenazi decision?

*****

A good weekend to all and “On Wisconsin.”

How Should the District Court in Siriwan Interpret Thailand’s Response to the US Government’s Extradition Request?

Today’s post is from Mike Dearington, a third-year law student at Vanderbilt University Law School.  The post concerns the DOJ’s FCPA-related enforcement action against the “foreign officials” in the Gerald and Patricia Green enforcement action. Dearington previously authored guests posts here and here on the action and provides an update below.

*****

How Should the District Court in Siriwan Interpret Thailand’s Response to the US Government’s Extradition Request?

Prosecutors in United States v. Siriwan filed a response last week (here) to address arguments raised by the Siriwans in mid-January.  Arguing against dismissal, prosecutors advanced the government’s position that Thailand’s responses to the US extradition request indicate that “Thailand has not asserted sole jurisdiction” over the Siriwans.

To recap, the Siriwan case has garnered significant attention because of the government’s novel prosecution tactic:  In 2009, prosecutors charged Juthamas Siriwan, ex-Governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand, as well as her daughter Jittisopa, with money laundering in connection with alleged bribe receipts remitted by Gerald and Patricia Green (see here for the prior FCPA Professor post).  The FCPA cannot reach Juthamas Siriwan because she is a foreign official, a limitation pronounced in United States v. Castle.  Thus, prosecutors charged Siriwan with money laundering in promotion of bribery in hopes of avoiding the FCPA’s shortcoming—a tactic the defense deemed a “novel and untested . . . theory.”

But prosecutors face a hurdle in what Judge Wu has called “a very important case in an area which is very, very difficult.”  Indeed, in a January 2012 hearing on the defendants’ motion to dismiss, Judge Wu expressed reluctance with “the government’s position that [it] can somehow get around” the FCPA by charging defendants under the Money Laundering Control Act (MLCA).  But an additional hurdle stands in the way of the court even reaching this money-laundering issue.

That hurdle is the United States’ treaty with Thailand.  In the January 2012 hearing, Judge Wu stated:

“I would not feel comfortable reaching final conclusions until I figure out or unless I am informed how the government of Thailand is viewing the situation . . . .  [I]f Thailand says it’s not going to extradite, I will find that Thailand has a dominant interest . . . because they will have expressed it to me in no uncertain terms.  If they agree to the extradition, then all of the issues are open and that means I’ll have to decide them all.”

In sum, the court suggested it might not reach a decision on whether prosecutors can proceed under an MLCA theory until the court first decides whether Thailand has a dominant interest or not.

To complicate matters, Thailand has neither agreed to, nor rejected, the government’s extradition request.  By July 2012, Thailand had made no response to US overtures. Finally, in November 2012, the Acting Thai Attorney General notified prosecutors that it was gathering evidence to charge the Siriwans and “must postpone the extradition process” pursuant to the treaty.  And in December 2012, Thailand’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs informed the US Embassy that a “criminal case will be filed” against Siriwan and therefore extradition proceedings “must be postponed . . . .”

Thus, the determinative question at this stage is how the court will interpret Thailand’s response.  On one hand, based on the court’s statements in January 2012, if the court views Thailand’s response and postponement of extradition proceedings as an expression of sole jurisdiction and a refusal to extradite, it will probably dismiss the indictment finding that Thailand has a dominant interest.  In support of dismissal, the defense argued in January that Thailand has expressed “sovereign interest,” and that Thailand’s position and “official[]” postponement “suggest[] the Thai government feels that extradition and prosecution here ‘may affect the international relation.’”

On the other hand, if the court views Thailand’s response not as a refusal, but as a mere delay, the case will likely remain on the court’s docket at least until the Thai Attorney General’s Office concludes its investigation and prosecution.  In the government’s filing last week, prosecutors argued that Thailand has “not made any . . . notification . . . nor has it otherwise signaled that international relations may be impaired . . . by the government’s prosecution.”  Of Thailand’s position, prosecutors stated “Thailand asserts no definitive position on any aspect of the government’s extradition request. . . . Thailand’s only affirmative statement is that it is postponing review of the request for the time being.”  Prosecutors accused the defense of “tr[ying] again and again to invent and interject into this case a conflict with Thailand that, in fact, does not exist,” and also of “inappropriately asserting self-serving and unfounded claims on behalf of Thailand.”

The court will need to first decide the jurisdiction question before even reaching, if at all, the legitimacy of prosecutors’ MLCA theory.  Even if the court ultimately approves the theory, however, the Siriwan proceeding portends the delays and difficulties treaties might pose for the government in seeking to prosecute foreign officials in the future.  A hearing on these issues is scheduled for February 21.

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