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An FCPA Enforcement Action That Slipped Through The Cracks

There is not much that goes unnoticed by the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act media.

However, this April 19, 2018 indictment [1] of Frank Roberto Chatburn Ripalda (a dual United States and Ecuadorian citizen) appears to have slipped through the cracks.

The indictment alleges that between 2013 and 2015, Chatburn conspired with others by making corrupt payments to PetroEcuador officials in order to obtain and retain contracts for Galileo (described as an Ecuadorian company that provided services in the oil and gas industry) from PetroEcuador.

PetroEcuador is described as follows:

“Empresa Publica de Hidrocarburos de Ecuador (“PetroEcuador”) was the state owned oil company of Ecuador. PetroEcuador was wholly-owned and controlled by the government of Ecuador and performed a function that Ecuador treated as its own, and thus was an “instrumentality” of the Ecuadorian government.”

According to the indictment, Chatburn and others “attempted to conceal the bribe payments by using intermediaries, including Intermediary Company [described as an escrow agent formed and registered in the British Virgin Islands with a bank account in the Cayman Islands] and Denfield [described as a Panamanian shell company that Chatburn helped to procure in or about 2012 for the purpose of receiving profits for the beneficial owner of Galileo] to funnel the payments to the PetroEcuador officials, and by helping two PetroEcuador officials set up offshore shell corporations and opening Swiss bank accounts for the purpose of concealing bribe payments the officials received.”

The indictment alleges that Chatburn and his co-conspirators “facilitated bribe payments to PetroEcuador officials totaling approximately $3,270,980.” The indictment further alleges that between 2013 and 2016 PetroEcuador paid Galileo approximately $27.8 million on contracts that it obtained and retained through bribes into accounts
designated by Chatburn.”

Chatburn is charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions, a substantive FCPA violation, conspiracy to commit money laundering and a substantive money laundering violation. In addition, in the same indictment Jose Larrea (a U.S. citizen) is charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering.

According to documents filed in connection with Chatburn’s bond, he has been aware for over two years that he was under criminal investigation.

In May 2016 the SEC found in this administrative order [2] that Chatburn (described as an an investment adviser representative for Biscayne Capital International LLC (BCI) and an investment adviser for the offshore affiliated entities, recommended and sold approximately $3.5 million in proprietary products to 29 non-U.S. BCI clients without making adequate disclosures or investigating red flags regarding the proprietary product issuers. (See here [3]).

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