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Tesler Pleas to Bonny Island Bribery Charges

Last Friday, the DOJ announced (here) that Jeffrey Tesler, a U.K. citizen and licensed solicitor who was recently extradited to the U.S., pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Keith P. Ellison (S.D. of Texas) to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA.

In February 2009, Tesler (a former consultant to Kellogg, Brown & Root Inc. and its joint venture partners – Technip, Snamprogetti and JGC Corporation of Japan – in in the Bonny Island, Nigeria project) was charged via an 11 count indictment (1 count conspiracy to violate the FCPA and 10 counts of substantive FCPA violations) (see here) for his role in the massive Bonny Island, Nigeria bribery scheme.

According to the DOJ release announcing Tesler’s plea:

“Tesler admitted that from approximately 1994 through June 2004, he and his co-conspirators agreed to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials, including top-level executive branch officials, in order to obtain and retain the EPC contracts. The joint venture hired Tesler as a consultant to pay bribes to high-level Nigerian government officials and hired a Japanese trading company to pay bribes to lower-level Nigerian government officials. During the course of the bribery scheme, the joint venture paid approximately $132 million in consulting fees to a Gibraltar corporation controlled by Tesler and more than $50 million to the Japanese trading company. Tesler admitted that he used the consulting fees he received from the joint venture, in part, to pay bribes to Nigerian government officials.”

As part of his plea agreement (here), Tesler agreed to forfeit $148,964,568 to the U.S. – an amount which “represents proceeds traceable” to the charges Tesler pleaded guilty. The forfeiture amount is the largest individual forfeiture in the FCPA’s history. Tesler is to be sentenced on June 22, 2011.

In December 2009, Tesler’s co-defendant Wojciech Chodan pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA (see here for the prior post). Chodan faces a maximum penalty of 60 months in prison and as part of his plea agreement he agreed to forfeit $726,885. Chodan is to be sentenced on April 27, 2011.

Both Tesler and Chodan reported to KBR’s former CEO Albert Jack Stanley who pleaded guilty in September 2008 to conspiracy to violate the FCPA and conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud (see here). Stanley’s plea agreement (here) contemplates a $10.8 million restitution payment and a sentence of 84 months.

For a summary of the corporate entities previously settling Bonny Island bribery charges see here. In January 2011, JGC (the remaining joint venture partner that has not yet settled) disclosed that it was in discussions with the DOJ to resolve its exposure via an agreement that would require it to pay approximately $218 million.

For additional coverage of Tesler’s plea see here from Bloomberg and here for certain questions raised by the FCPA Blog as to the forfeiture amount.

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