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Historic “Foreign Official” Appeals Filed

For the first time in FCPA history, “foreign official” is headed to an appellate court.

Yesterday, Carlos Rodriguez and Joel Esquenazi filed appeals (here) and (here) in the 11th Circuit challenging their convictions.  As noted in this previous post, in August 2011 a federal jury (after a two week trial) convicted Esquenazi and Rodriguez on all counts for their roles in a scheme to pay bribes to alleged Haitian officials at Haiti Telecom.  In the prior post discussing the verdict, I noted that given the “foreign official” jury instructions at trial, the defendants have a good chance to challenge the instruction on appeal should they so choose.  This was before the strange developments concerning the existence of Haiti Teleco – see here, here and here for prior posts.

As noted in this DOJ release announcing the jury verdict, Esquenazi and Rodriguez were convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and wire fraud; seven counts of FCPA violations; one count of money laundering conspiracy; and 12 counts of money laundering.  In October 2011, Esquenazi was sentenced to an FCPA record 15 years in prison and Rodriguez was sentenced to 7 years in prison – see here for the prior post.

The remainder of this post summarizes the initial briefs of Rodriguez and Esquenazi.

Rodriguez Brief

Representing Rodriguez in his appeal are Foley & Lardner attorneys David Simon (here), Michael Halfenger (here), James Cirincione (here), Pamela Johnson (here), Jaime Guerrero (here), Kenneth Winer (here), and Lauren Valiente (here).

The brief presents the following issues.

“1. Whether the District Court erred as a matter of law in its jury instruction regarding what constitutes an “instrumentality” of a foreign government for purposes of construing the counts, including the money laundering counts, that were dependent upon the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”).

2. Whether the District Court abused its discretion when it refused to hold an evidentiary hearing concerning the circumstances and history regarding a declaration from the current Haitian Minister of Justice that stated that Telecommunications D’Haiti (“Teleco”) was not an “instrumentality” of the Haitian government that the Government turned over just after the jury’s verdict followed by a second declaration that the United States Government was involved in procuring that reversed the first declaration, which contained clear exculpatory evidence .

3. Whether the District Court erred as a matter of law in its “knowledge” jury instruction regarding the FCPA-dependent counts, including the money laundering counts.

4. Whether there was sufficient evidence to support jury’s verdicts as to the FCPA counts.

5. Whether the District Court plainly erred when it submitted the wire fraud-dependent counts, including the money laundering counts, to the jury based on an erroneous jury instruction that failed to require proof that of the jurisdictional facts necessary for federal wire fraud, that is that the wire communications crossed state lines (i.e., inter-state communications).

6. Whether the District Court plainly erred in its mens rea instruction to the jury regarding the wire fraud-dependent counts, including the money laundering counts, because the jury was not asked to find intent to defraud for the wire fraud-dependent counts.

7. Whether there was sufficient evidence to support the jury’s verdicts as to the wire fraud-dependent counts.

8. Whether the Government’s attempt to change the basis of its wire fraud theory from wire transfers to facsimiles constitutes an impermissible variance from its initial theory of the case.

9. Whether the District Court erred as a matter of law in its jury instruction of what constituted a violation of the Haitian bribery law as proper predicate for the money laundering counts.

10. Whether the District Court abused its discretion in not granting a motion to dismiss the money laundering counts where the “proceeds” of the predicate crimes were the same transfers of money that were charged as the money laundering transactions, thereby violating the merger rule, and whether there was sufficient evidence to support jury’s verdicts as to the money laundering counts for the same reason.

11. Whether Mr. Rodriguez’s sentence must be vacated.

12. Whether the forfeiture order and the forfeiture aspect of the amended judgment and commitment order must be vacated because the oral sentence pronounced by the District Court did not order forfeiture.”

In summary, the brief argues as follows (internal citations omitted).

“1. The District Court abused its discretion by refusing to charge the jury using Mr. Rodriguez’s proposed instructions as to the terms “foreign official” and “instrumentality.” The interpretation of these terms under the FCPA is an issue of first impression in this Court. However, the District Court’s instructions conflict with this Court’s existing precedent. The District Court instructed the jury that an instrumentality of the Haitian government “is a means or agency through which a function of the foreign government is accomplished.” This Court explicitly rejected such a definition while interpreting another statute that contains the term “instrumentality” in a virtually identical statutory context.  Addressing whether a private corporation that operated a prison system on behalf of the State of Florida was an “instrumentality of a state,” this Court held that the term “instrumentality of a state” referred to “governmental units or units created by them,” and rejected the functionality test incorporated into the instructions given by the District Court.. Mr. Rodriguez’s proposed instructions were consistent with this Court’s precedent. Because this Court rejected the functionality test in the context of another statute, the District Court abused its discretion by giving such an instruction in this case, in which Mr. Rodriguez may lose his liberty for seven years.

2. The District Court abused its discretion by denying Mr. Rodriguez’s motion for an evidentiary hearing regarding two contradictory declarations executed by Jean Max Bellerive, the Minister of Justice and Public Safety for Haiti (the Haitian government’s analog to the United States Attorney General). During the course of Mr. Rodriguez’s trial, Bellerive signed a declaration stating that Teleco “has never been and until now is not a State enterprise. Since its formation to date, it has and remains a Company under common law.” The Government disclosed this declaration five days after Mr. Rodriguez had been convicted. In opposing Mr. Rodriguez’s motion for an evidentiary hearing, the Government produced a second declaration signed by Bellerive that “clarified”several of the declarations key statements about Teleco’s status under Haitian law.  The United States government substantially assisted the Minister in preparing the second, “clarifying” declaration. Despite the confusion created by the conflicting declarations, the District Court declined to hold an evidentiary hearing on the potential Brady issues posed by these events. That was an abuse of discretion.

3. The District Court also abused its discretion by rejecting Mr. Rodriguez’s requested jury instructions as to the “knowledge” requirement of the FCPA and by giving a deliberate ignorance instruction with no basis in the evidence.

4. The District Court erred by denying Mr. Rodriguez’s motion for acquittal, because the evidence is insufficient to support the jury’s determination that Teleco was an “instrumentality” of the Haitian government under the FCPA, and because no evidence was admitted at trial establishing that Teleco performed a function of the Haitian government.

5. The District Court erred by denying Mr. Rodriguez’s motion for acquittal based on the insufficiency of the evidence. Most of the trial testimony centered on Mr. Rodriguez’s co-defendant, Esquenazi, who had been the CEO of the small telecommunications company at issue here. He, not Mr. Rodriguez, had direct contacts with Haitian citizens. The Government’s evidence against Mr. Rodriguez amounted to the fact that he signed Terra’s checks and Terra’s former Comptroller, Perez, thought Mr. Rodriguez was in one meeting where bribes were discussed. Perez’s testimony was uncorroborated, contradicted by his earlier statements to the Government, and inherently unreliable. The evidence is insufficient to support the jury’s verdict that Mr. Rodriguez conspired to violate any federal law.

6. The District Court erroneously instructed the jury as to the jurisdictional element for the interstate wire fraud communication counts and the elements of money laundering, because the jury was not instructed that the wires must cross state lines, and the jury was not instructed that Government had to prove that the proceeds of the specified unlawful activity resulted from a felony under Haitian law to support a money laundering conviction.

7. The evidence does not support the jury’s determination that Mr. Rodriguez committed wire fraud, because there is no evidence that any interstate wires were sent. The District Court evidence adduced at trial does not support the jury’s verdict as to any count of conviction, even when the evidence is construed in favor of the Government.

8. Finally, the District Court’s Amended Judgment and Commitment Order imposed an invalid sentence by including forfeiture because the District Court did not announce an order of forfeiture as part of Mr. Rodriguez’s orallyimposed sentence.”

Esquenazi Brief

Representing Esquenazi in his appeal are Perkins Coie attorneys Markus Funk (here) and Michael Sink (here) and Michael Rosen (Michael Rosen P.A.).

Esquenazi adopted portions of co-appellant Rodriguez’s brief relating to the FCPA, intra-state wire fraud issues, and the Haitian bribery and in addition the brief presents the following issues.

1. “Whether the district court erred by refusing to conduct an evidentiary hearing on Brady issues.”

2. “Whether Esquenazi is entitled to an acquittal because employees of Haiti Teleco were not “foreign officials” within the meaning of FCPA simply because the National Bank of Haiti owned shares of Haiti Teleco and the Haitian government appoints board members and directors.”

3. “Whether the FCPA jury instructions adequately conveyed the requisite governmental function necessary to establish that Haiti Teleco was an “instrumentality” of the Haitian government and Esquenazi’s knowledge of the same.”

4. “Whether the district court erred by improperly applying the sentencing guidelines as to leadership role, perjury and loss amount.”

In summary, the brief argues as follows (internal citations omitted).

“Although the FCPA is aimed at corrupt payments made to “foreign officials,” the Government never established that Haiti Teleco performed government functions similar to a governmental department or agency, such that Haiti Teleco’s employees would qualify as “foreign officials.” Instead, the Government relied on the National Bank of Haiti’s ownership of stock in Haiti Teleco and the Haitian government’s appointment board members and directors. Six days after the jury reached its verdict, however, the Government disclosed the existence of a declaration from the then-current Prime Minister of Haiti, Jean Max Bellerive, prepared ten days prior to the case going to the jury. The declaration stated that Haiti Teleco “has never been and is not a State enterprise,” and that the by-laws of the company had never been changed as required by law to make Haiti Teleco a government-owned entity.

Under Brady v. Maryland, the Government has an affirmative obligation under the Due Process Clause of the Fifth Amendment to “learn of any favorable evidence known to others acting on the government’s behalf in the case” and disclose any potentially exculpatory evidence to the defendant. Esquenazi requested a Brady hearing to determine if and when the Government knew of the contents of this critical declaration. The district court erred in refusing to hold an evidentiary hearing under the circumstances.

Esquenazi is also entitled to an acquittal on all FCPA-based counts because the term “instrumentality” in the FCPA should be construed to encompass only foreign entities performing governmental functions similar to departments or agencies. Here, the Government failed to establish that Haiti Teleco performed a governmental function. Despite the Government’s continued reliance on the premise that state-ownership or state-control of a business entity makes that entity and “instrumentality” of the government under the FCPA, that theory was explicitly considered by the drafters of the FCPA, but not included in the statute, and is inconsistent with the language of the statute as drafted. Because so many individuals and companies prosecuted by the Government prefer to resolve their cases prior to trial, the validity of the Government’s theory has seldom been tested in court, and never before by a United States Court of Appeals. This case presents an opportunity to review the Government’s aggressive enforcement of a less-than-clear federal statute and properly limit its scope to corrupt payments made to “foreign officials,” including employees of “instrumentalities” that perform governmental functions similar to governmental departments and agencies.

Esquenazi is also entitled to an acquittal or a new trial because the jury instructions failed to require that the jury determine whether Haiti Teleco ever exercised a government function akin to a department or agency, or even define “governmental function.” Because the jury could have reached its verdict without any consideration of the function of Haiti Teleco, the jury instructions were deficient.

Finally, the district court improperly calculated Esquenazi’s sentence. Esquenazi’s leadership role should have been that of an organizer or manager rather than a leader. Further, his enhanced sentence for perjury was improper both as to the substance of the district court’s findings and the procedure by which it made the determination.”

DOJ Opposes Rodriguez’s Release Pending Appeal

As detailed in this prior post, Carlos Rodriguez (one of the defendants in the Haiti Teleco case currently serving a seven year sentence) is seeking release pending appeal of his conviction and sentence.  Among other things, Rodriguez’s appeal will relate to ‘foreign official” issues and will be the first time in the FCPA’s history that “foreign official” will be squarely before a Circuit Court.

Yesterday, the DOJ filed (here) an opposition brief.  In pertinent part, the DOJ stated as follows.  “In order to justify bond pending appeal, Rodriguez must raise a substantial question as to “all counts on which imprisonment was imposed.”  […]  Because Counts 1 and 9-21 all involve independent wire fraud allegations, and because he was sentenced on all of these counts, Rodriguez’s FCPA-related allegations have no bearing on his convictions on these counts.  Similarly, Rodriguez’s arguments regarding his money laundering convictions […] have no bearing on his conviction in Count 1 for conspiring to violate the FCPA and the wire fraud statute.  In short, even assuming arguendo that this Court eventually accepts Rodriguez’s FCPA and money laundering arguments, this will have no effect on his conviction for conspiring to commit wire fraud, which the jury specially found Rodriguez had done and for which he was sentenced.  Accordingly, Rodriguez cannot meet the standard for bond pending appeal, and his motion should be denied.”  (emphasis in original).

As to “foreign official” the DOJ stated that the trial court’s jury instruction was “consistent with, albeit not verbatim to, decisions handed down by other courts that have considered the meaning of ‘instrumentality’ under the FCPA” (citing to the Carson and Lindsey decisions).  The DOJ further stated that “the government presented overwhelming proof at trial that Teleco was an instrumentality of the Haitian government.”

Rodriguez Seeks Release Pending Historic Appeal

In October 2011, Carlos Rodriguez, one of the defendants in the Haiti Teleco case, was sentenced to 7 years in prison (see here for the prior post).  Rodriguez was convicted in August 2011, along with his co-defendant Joel Esquenazi, of FCPA and related counts.  In this prior post discussing the verdict, I noted that given the “foreign official” jury instructions at trial the defendants have a good chance to challenge the instruction on appeal should they so choose.  This was before the strange developments concerning the existence of Haiti Teleco – see here, here and here for prior posts.

This past Friday, Rodriguez filed a motion for release pending appeal – see here.  His appellate counsel is lead by David Simon (Foley & Lardner – here) and also includes Foley attorneys Michael Halfenger – here, Pamela Johnson – here and Lauren Valiente – here.   This will be the first time in the FCPA’s history that “foreign official” will be squarely before a Circuit Court.

In the motion, Rodriguez moves the Court to order his release pending appeal of his conviction and sentence.  The motion states as follows.  “This appeal will address issues of first impression in any circuit involving the [FCPA]; additionally, the record contains a number of serious errors that deprived Rodriguez of a fair trial and affected his substantial rights.  This is the quintessential case where release (with bail ordered) pending appeal should be granted.  Rodriguez should not be incarcerated, as he is now, while these significant legal issues are briefed and addressed by this Court.  He was on bail during the entire pretrial period and trial.  He is not a flight risk, which the government has already conceded.  This motion should be granted because all the counts fail and should be reversed …”.

According to the motion, the appeal will present substantial questions relating to:  “(1) whether the district court erred in its jury instructions regarding the meaning of a key statutory term in the FCPA – what is an ‘instrumentality’ of a foreign government; (2) whether there was sufficient evidence to sustain the jury’s verdict on the ‘foreign official’ element; (3) whether the district court erred in its wire fraud jury instructions; (4) whether there was sufficient evidence presented to establish a violation of Haitian bribery law as a predicate for the conspiracy and money laundering charges; and (5) whether the money laundering charges violated the merger rule.”

Second Circuit Affirms Bourke’s Conviction

Earlier today the Second Circuit Court of Appeals issued a decision (here) affirming Frederic Bourke’s 2009 conviction of conspiring to violate the FCPA and the Travel Act and of making false statements.

The Bourke appeal was principally based on knowledge issues which present narrow, factually unique issues.   Nevertheless the Second Circuit’s holding on conscious avoidance is noteworthy in terms of FCPA jurisprudence.  Essentially the court held that Bourke enabled himself to participate in a bribery scheme without acquiring actual knowledge of the specific conduct at issue and that such conscious avoidance, even if supported primarily by circumstantial evidence, is sufficient to warrant an FCPA-related charges.  The message to international investors should be clear, if a potential investment results in sleepless nights and fear of asking specific direct questions because of the answers you might receive, there is probably better uses for your money.

Brian Whisler (an FCPA practitioner at Baker & McKenzie – see here) who has been following the case offered the following.  “Despite the considerable speculation surrounding this case, today’s Second Circuit opinion affirming Mr. Bourke’s conviction came with little surprise, as the standard on review is so heavily weighted in favor of the government when defendants challenge the sufficiency of the evidence underlying their convictions.  The Court found that a rational juror could infer from the totality of the evidence that Mr. Bourke deliberately avoided confirming his suspicious aroused by multiple red flags signaling corruption and that the same evidence could establish his knowledge about the crime.  Given DOJ’s aggressive pursuit of individual executives, this precedent is instructive, particularly for purposes of defining willful blindness.”

Before turning to the Second Circuit’s decision, a bit of background.  The Bourke case is arguably the most complex and convoluted case in the history of the FCPA and focuses on the conduct of Bourke and others – including most notably Viktor Kozeny (who is enjoying life in the Bahamas) – in a bribery scheme connected to the privatization of the Azerbaijan state-owned oil company, SOCAR.  The case largely focused on the FCPA’s knowledge element and whether Bourke, as an investor, had sufficient knowledge of the bribery scheme.

As noted in this previous post when Bourke was sentenced to 366 days in November 2009, the case involved a nearly decade long investigation that spanned the globe, dismissal of FCPA substantive charges on statute of limitations grounds, reinstatement of the FCPA substantive charges,  a superseding indictment which then dropped the FCPA substantive charges and a six week jury trial.  For additional background on the case, see this superb piece by Andrew Longstreth that appeared in the American Lawyer.

Bespeaking the complex nature of the case, in November 2009 when Judge Shira Scheindin (S.D.N.Y.)  sentenced Bourke she stated as follows.  “After years of supervising this case, it’s still not entirely clear to me whether Mr. Bourke is a victim or a crook or a little bit of both.”

A previous post (here) outlined Bourke’s appeal.

The Second Circuit’s opinion begins as follows.  “On appeal, Bourke vigorously attacks his conviction on several fronts, including the (1) correctness of the jury instructions given, (2) the propriety of certain evidentiary rulings made by the district court, and (3) the sufficiency of the evidence supporting the false statements conviction. For the reasons given below, we affirm.”

After a detailed discussion of the facts, the Court focused on the jury instructions and stated as follows.  “Bourke challenges the jury instructions on four primary grounds. First, he argues the district court erred in refusing to instruct the jury that it needed to agree unanimously on a single overt act committed in furtherance of the conspiracy. Second, he argues the district court improperly charged the jury on conscious avoidance because (1) there was no factual basis for such a charge; and (2) the government waived its reliance on the conscious avoidance theory. Third, he argues the district court erred by failing to instruct the jury that the government needed to prove Bourke acted “corruptly” and “willfully” to sustain a conviction on FCPA conspiracy. Finally, he argues the district court erred in failing to give the jury Bourke’s proposed good-faith instruction.”

As to overt acts, the Court held that “the jury need not agree on a single overt act to sustain a conspiracy conviction.”  The court stated as follows.  “We conclude, therefore, that although proof of at least one overt act is necessary to prove an element of the crime, which overt act among multiple such acts supports proof of a conspiracy conviction is a brute fact and not itself element of the crime. The jury need not reach unanimous agreement on which particular overt act was committed in furtherance of the conspiracy.”

As to conscious avoidance, the Court disagreed with Bourke’s argument that a conscious avoidance charge lacked a factual predicate and stated as follows.  “While the government’s primary theory at trial was that he had actual knowledge of the bribery scheme, there is ample evidence to support a conviction based on the alternate theory of conscious avoidance. The testimony at trial demonstrated that Bourke was aware of how pervasive corruption was in Azerbaijan generally.   Bourke knew of Kozeny’s reputation as the “Pirate of Prague.”  Bourke created the American advisory companies to shield himself and other American investors from potential liability from payments made in violation of FCPA, and joined the boards of the American companies instead of joining the Oily Rock board.   In so doing, Bourke enabled himself to participate in the investment without acquiring actual knowledge of Oily Rock’s undertakings. The strongest evidence demonstrating that Bourke willfully avoided learning whether corrupt payments were made came from tape recordings of a May 18, 1999 phone conference with Bourke, fellow investor Friedman and their attorneys, during which Bourke voiced concerns about whether Kozeny and company were paying bribes.  […]  Finally, Bourke’s attorney testified that he advised Bourke that if Bourke thought there might be bribes paid, Bourke could not just look the other way. Taken together, a rational juror could conclude that Bourke deliberately avoided confirming his suspicions that Kozeny and his cohorts may be paying bribes.”

The Court further stated as follows.  “It is not uncommon for a finding of conscious avoidance to be supported primarily by circumstantial evidence. Indeed, the very nature of conscious avoidance makes it unlikely that the record will contain directly incriminating statements. Just as it is rare to find direct record evidence of an employer stating, “I am not going to give you a raise because you are a woman,” it is highly unlikely a defendant will provide direct record evidence of conscious avoidance by saying, “Stop! I think you are about to discuss a crime and I want to be able to deny I know anything about it!” Here, the evidence adduced by the government at trial suffices to support the giving of a conscience avoidance charge.”

The Court specifically rejected Bourke’s argument that the conscious avoidance charge improperly allowed the jury to convict him based on negligence, rather than based on evidence that he avoided learning the truth.  The Court stated as follows.  “[T]he record contains ample evidence that Bourke had serious concerns about the legality of Kozeny’s business practices and worked to avoid learning exactly what Kozeny was doing.”  Moreover, the Court stated that the “district court specifically charged the jury not to convict based on negligence [and] there is no reason to suspect that the jury ignored that instruction.”

As to mens rea, the Court found no error in the district court’s jury instruction that to convict the jury had to find that Bourke knew of the conspiracy’s object and that Bourke intended for that object to be accomplished.    The Court found that “the district court properly instructed the jury that it must find Bourke knowingly entered into a conspiracy that had the object of corruptly and willfilly bribing foreign officials and that Bourke intended to aid in achieving this object.”  In so holding, the Court stated that Bourke’s requested jury instruction that would have required the jury to “find Bourke willfully and corruptly joined a conspiracy to willfully and corruptly bribe foreign governments” was an “absurd result unsupported by the law.”

As to Bourke’s proposed good faith instruction, the Court stated as follows.  “Even assuming arguendo that Bourke’s proposed instruction was legally correct with an adequate basis in the record, his argument fails because the theory was effectively presented elsewhere” in the jury instructions and the “failure to give a specific good faith charge does not require reversal.”

Does the Second Circuit’s decision mark the end of the road for Bourke?  Perhaps not, his request for a new trial – based on the theory that a key witness offered false testimony – is still pending.  The Second Circuit’s decision does not address Bourke’s pending request, but in light of its decision, it is unlikely that Judge Scheindin will grant Bourke’s motion.

A “Foreign Official” Fights Back

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act addresses the payment of bribes, not the receipt of bribes.

For instance, in U.S. v. Castle, 925 F.2d 831 (5th Cir. 1991), the court was called upon to consider whether “foreign officials” who are excluded from prosecution under the FCPA itself, could nevertheless be prosecuted under the general conspiracy statute (18 USC 371) for conspiring to violate the FCPA.  The court held that “foreign officials”  could not be prosecuted for conspiring to violate the FCPA and adopted the rationale set forth in the trial court opinion (see 741 F.Supp. 116).   That rationale was that Congress, in passing the FCPA, only chose to punish one party to the bribe agreement and the DOJ could not therefore  “override the Congressional intent not to prosecute foreign officials for their participation in the prohibited acts” through use of the conspiracy statute.  The trial court stated as follows.  “The drafters of the [FCPA] knew that they could, consistently with international law, reach foreign officials in certain circumstances. But they were equally well aware of, and actively considered, the ‘inherent jurisdictional, enforcement, and diplomatic difficulties’ raised by the application of the bill to non-citizens of the United States.”  The trial court observed that prosecution and punishment of “foreign officials” (in the Castle case alleged Canadian “foreign officials”) “will be accomplished by the government which most directly suffered the abuses allegedly perpetrated by its own officials, and there is no need to contravene Congress’ desire to avoid such prosecutions by the United States.”  For those of you scoring at home, Castle represents a DOJ loss in a contested FCPA matter.

In recent years, however, the DOJ has used other laws in an attempt to reach “foreign officials.”  This trend has been profiled here and here.  For instance, in January 2010, in connection with the Gerald and Patricia Green FCPA enforcement action, a criminal indictment was unsealed against Juthamas Siriwan and Jittisopa Siriwan.  According to the indictment, Juthamas “was the senior government officer of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)” and she is the “foreign official” the Greens were convicted of bribing.  Jittisopa is the daughter of the “foreign official” and also alleged to be an “employee of Thailand Privilege Card Co. Ltd.” an entity controlled by TAT and an alleged “instrumentality of the Thai government.”  The charges against the Siriwans were not FCPA charges, but largely conspiracy to money launder and “transporting funds to promote unlawful activity.”

As detailed in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents story by Joe Palazzolo, the Siriwans are fighting back.  On behalf of the Siriwans, lawyers at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP recently field this motion to dismiss to the indictment.

In summary, the Siriwans state as follows.  “This is the first judicial challenge to a novel prosecutorial approach the Government recently developed to charge foreign officials allegedly involved in corruption.  That approach is aimed at overcoming a fundamental FCPA limitation.  The FCPA does not criminalize a foreign public official’s receipt of a bribe.  Nor can the Government employ an FCPA conspiracy charge against a foreign public official.  Accordingly, these new enforcement initiatives require expansive interpretations [of] “promotion money laundering” [under the Money Laundering Control Act].”  The Siriwans state as follows.  “Congress has extensively amended the FCPA, yet it deliberately has not extended FCPA liability to foreign officials.  If the Government wishes to extend U.S. criminal penalties to foreign officials accepting a bribe, it must go back to Congress, rather than employ dubious charging tactics to evade the direct and repeated congressional choice not to apply FCPA criminal liability to such officials.”

As noted in Palazzolo’s article, the DOJ has yet to respond to Siriwans’ motion and U.S. District Judge George Wu (C.D. of California) has scheduled a hearing on the motion for October 20th.

In a development that goes straight to a point raised by the Castle court, Thailand’s National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) has reportedly found sufficient grounds to believe that Juthamas Siriwan received money from the Greens and that Jittisopa Siriwan was an accomplice in the bribery case.  The NCCC has reportedly forwarded its conclusion to the Thai Attorney-General for legal action against the Siriwans.  For more, see here from the Bangkok Post.

The Siriwan’s challenge is the latest in “this year of FCPA judicial scrutiny.”  Previously this year, there was the first judicial challenge to the DOJ’s “foreign official” interpretation that made extensive use of the FCPA’s legislative history (see here); the first dd-3 judicial challenge (see here); the first victim petition under the FCPA (see here); and the first Travel Act judicial challenge (see here).

*****

In a related development (see here), the DOJ has dropped its appeal of Gerald and Patricia Green’s sentence.  As detailed in this prior post, in September 2009, Gerald and Patricia Green were found guilty by a federal jury of substantive FCPA violations, conspiracy to violate the FCPA, and other charges.  After several sentencing delays, in August 2010 (see here), Judge Wu rejected the DOJ’s 10 year sentencing request for both Gerald and Patricia Green and sentenced the Greens to six months in prison, followed by three years probation.  In its sentencing brief, the DOJ urged the court to “disregard defendants’ efforts to obscure the landscape of FCPA sentencing, which generally reflects significant prison terms for convicted individuals.”  I asked at the time whether the “landscape of FCPA sentencing” truly reflected “significant prison terms” as stated by the DOJ – a statement even more true now (see the FCPA Sentences tab under the Search page).

I was surprised to learn that the DOJ was appealing the Green sentences and I am thus not surprised to learn that the DOJ has dropped its appeal.  In short, do you think the DOJ wants anything FCPA related before the 9th Circuit?

 

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