A guest post from Mark Morrison (Blake, Cassels & Graydon) the Canada expert for FCPA Professor, and Blake attorneys Michael Dixon and James Reid.
Canadian authorities have not slowed down since 2013, which marked the most active year to date in Canada’s anti-corruption law enforcement history. This post discusses law enforcement proceedings in Canada so far this year under Canada’s equivalent to the FCPA, the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (CFPOA).
Recent Enforcement Proceedings
Canadian authorities continue to demonstrate their willingness to enforce Canadian anti-corruption laws. While we do not expect enforcement activity to reach the level of our good neighbor to the south, Canadian enforcement continues at a moderate pace, which is a significant change from the historic total lack of enforcement.
This year has seen authorities focus on pursuing individuals under the CFPOA, which included the first jail sentence being handed out. The current trend of increased sanctions and enforcement against individuals is worth noting for corporate officers.
Notable enforcement proceedings are discussed below.
Chowdhury – Five individuals were jointly charged with one count of bribing a foreign public official. The alleged purpose of the bribes were to obtain a contract to provide consultancy services for the building of the World Bank funded Padma Bridge Project in Bangladesh. One of the individuals charged, Abdul Hasan Chowdhury, was a Bangladeshi citizen and resident. Chowdhury was formerly the Minister of State in Bangladesh and had never been to Canada. The allegations against Chowdhury were that he had exerted influence over the selection committee for the Padma Bridge Project.
All of the conduct in relation to the alleged bribery scheme was said to have occurred in Bangladesh.
Justice Nordheimer of the Ontario Superior Court conducted an analysis on the different bases on which states exercise jurisdiction over offences with transnational or international aspects. In doing so, Justice Nordheimer distinguished jurisdiction over an accused from jurisdiction over an offence and held that the CFPOA does not give the Court jurisdiction over foreign nationals who do not reside, or are not otherwise present (such as through extradition or otherwise), in Canada. The court held that the mere fact Chowdhury was a party to the offence was not sufficient to give Canada personal jurisdiction over him unless he either physically came to Canada or Bangladesh offers to surrender him to Canada.
Karigar – On May 23, 2014, Nazir Karigar was sentenced to three years in prison for offering to bribe foreign officials. This is the first time that a jail term has been handed out to an individual convicted under the CFPOA. This case will likely stand as a precedent for sentencing in future corruption cases.
Karigar was convicted on August 15, 2013 for his role in a plan to bribe Indian officials, including a government minister. The case concerned an agreement to pay approximately US $450,000 in cash as well as certain shares to Air India officials and the Indian Minister of Civil Aviation to secure a contract for the provision of facial recognition software and related equipment. At the time, Karigar was acting for Cryptometrics Canada. Karigar was convicted despite Cryptometrics not being successfully awarded the contract or there being any evidence the bribe was actually paid to Indian officials.
In sentencing, Justice Hackland of the Ontario Superior Court took Karigar’s age, his cooperation and the fact the scheme was unsuccessful into account as mitigating factors. However, since the bribery scheme was viewed as a serious crime, the principles of denunciation and deterrence were placed at the forefront in administering the sentence.
It is also important to note, that at the time Karigar was charged, the maximum prison sentence was only five years. Since then however, the CFPOA has raised the maximum penalty from five years to 14 years. This sentencing reflects the continuing trend of significant judicial denunciation when it comes to offences under the CFPOA.
Ongoing RCMP Investigations –Following the Karigar sentencing in May, on June 4, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) charged US nationals Robert Barra (former Cryptometrics CEO) and Dario Berini (former Cryptometrics COO) for bribery offences under CFPOA. UK national Shailesh Govindia, an agent for Cryptometrics, has also been charged with bribery under CFPOA and with one count of fraud contrary to the Criminal Code of Canada. Canada-wide warrants have been issued for all three accused.
Canada has continued to focus on anti-corruption compliance and enforcement in the first half of 2014. A notable trend in enforcement from last year is the RCMP’s current focus on individuals involved in corruption schemes. Canadian courts have also made it clear that offences under the CFPOA are unlikely to receive leniency.