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David Painter’s Story

Their names are known by many, their stories by few.  Behind every Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action against an individual is a human story.

As noted in “What Percentage of DOJ FCPA Losses is Acceptable” (here [1]) bringing criminal charges and marshalling the full resources of law enforcement agencies against an individual is an awesome power that our government possesses. That power alters the lives of real people and their families, sidetracks real careers, empties real bank accounts in mounting a defense, and causes often irreversible damage to real reputations.

David Painter has experienced this awesome power and felt its real effects.  In January 2010, David Painter was one of the twenty-two defendants charged in the Africa Sting case.  See here [2] for the DOJ release.  Painter was among the group of Africa Sting defendants criminally charged, but the charges against him and others were dismissed after the DOJ suffered defeats and other setbacks in the first two trials and after the jury foreman in the second Africa Sting trial made this [3] guest post on FCPA Professor.

This [4] recent article from the U.K. Daily Mail tells Painter’s story.

The story tells how Painter (a U.K. citizen and former chief executive of Surrey based 3S – Security Support Solutions Ltd.) was taken down by an FBI SWAT team who thrust their semi-automatic rifles through his car door in Las Vegas, handcuffed him, and led him away at gunpoint.  Painter said “it was like having a bomb dropped on your life. There is a dark side to our world, a place beyond our control where governments and their agents can do what they want.  My life is the flotsam left in the wake of America’s obsession with policing the world. I have never contravened the rigorous controls and laws in my line of business.”  Painter adds “after I was arrested I felt as if I’d just dropped off the radar of my real life, as though I’d disappeared into the American prison system and would never be discovered.  I had no access to an international telephone or money, no lawyer, no useful communication from my own government. I got one visit from a British consular official in Las Vegas who had come to check up on my medical welfare.”

The story tells of Painter’s five week journey through the U.S. prison system (he was moved from Las Vegas to San Bernadino, California and from there on ‘Con Air’ to Oklahoma, from Oklahoma he was shuttled to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, from where he was driven to his arraignment and bail hearing in Washington DC).  According to the article, “he slept on a concrete floor; was stripped naked, bent over and searched in public; shared an open latrine in a cell with two dozen inmates and was handcuffed, shackled and chained at the waist when he was moved.”  Painter said “There were moments of humor, but it was mostly a matter of survival. I was locked in cells with up to 90 other men, from Mafia types and Hispanic drug barons to fathers who’d committed mortgage fraud.   I learned not to ask to watch the news, not to snore, not to be embarrassed about my body and to zone out.  It was rough. I saw men being pepper-sprayed. I went hungry and thirsty and was perpetually cold. The whole experience is designed to make you feel precisely what you are: crushable.”

Yet Painter declined to plea bargain.  In the story, he states as follows.  “My dramatic arrest and the way I was treated in prison was to soften me up for a plea bargain. Ninety per cent of people in my situation accept one because of the almost insurmountable odds against fighting the limitless resources of the DOJ.  But I am not the kind of man to perjure myself in court. I could not confess to something I had not done. We sold our home and cashed up the fruits of a lifetime of work to fund the fight.”

Indeed, the story tells of Painter selling his home and liquidating his assets and pensions to pay for his legal fees.  As detailed in the story, in May 2010, Painter was permitted to go home to the U.K. to his wife and two children.  There “he worked on his defense as he would a job.”

The story closes by noting that David Painter and his family are “slowly righting the ship.”  Painter says, “I tell the story of the Gabon deal and think, you couldn’t make it up.  But, of course, they did.”