In recent FCPA year in reviews (see here for 2014 and here for 2013) topics have included judicial scrutiny of non-FCPA cases because the decisions (mostly concerning jurisdictional issues relevant to foreign actors) should cause pause as to certain Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement theories against foreign actors.
The 2015 year in review is sure to include mention of U.S. v. Vassilieve et al. (a recent case highlighted here) in which U.S. District Court Judge Charles Breyer (N.D. Cal.)(pictured) delivered a major benchslap to the DOJ.
The case involved conduct in the same general sphere of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
Namely, the DOJ alleged in this indictment that:
Yuri Sidorenko (a citizen of Ukraine and St. Kitts & Nevis who resided in Dubai and the Chairman of the EDAPS Consortium Advisory Counsel – a Ukrainian conglomerate of various companies that manufactured and supplied a variety of identification and security products, including passports, drivers licenses and other such products) and
Alexander Vassiliev (also a citizen of Ukraine and St. Kitts & Nevis who resided in Dubai and the Chairman of the Board of EDAPS)
provided money and other things of value to Mauricio Siciliano (an executive of the International Civil Aviation Organization (“ICAO”), a United Nations specialized agency, responsible for, among other things, standardizing machined-readable passports, including biometric passports) so that Siciliano would use his official position as an Executive of ICAO to benefit EDAPS’s business as well as Sidorenko and Vassiliev personally. According to the indictment Siciliano (a Venezuelan national who primarily resided in Canada where ICAO is headquartered and had a Canadian passport) was an executive at ICAO who was specifically assigned to work in ICAO’s Machine Readable Travel Documents Programme.
Siciliano would likely be a “foreign official” under the FCPA given the “public international organization” prong of the “foreign official” element. However, as it relates to foreign nationals like Sidorenko and Vassiliev the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions contain the following jurisdictional element: “while in the territory of the United States, corruptly to make use of the mails or any means or instrumentality of interstate commerce or to do any other act in furtherance” of a bribery scheme.
The DOJ’s indictment did not contain any U.S. jurisdictional allegations, and likely because of this, the bribery scheme was not charged as an FCPA offense.
Rather, the indictment alleged that the U.S. was a member of ICAO and provided support to ICAO by, among other things, annual monetary contributions. According to the indictment, during the relevant time period, U.S. contributions to ICAO constituted approximately 25% of its annual budget.
Presumably on the basis of this allegation, the DOJ charged the defendants with: (i) conspiracy to commit honest services fraud; (ii) honest services fraud; (iii) conspiracy to solicit and to give bribes involving a federal program; (iv) soliciting bribes involving a federal program; (v) giving bribes involving a federal program; and (vi) aiding and abetting offenses.
“This is a most unusual indictment. It levels charges against foreign nationals and is based solely on foreign conduct. The indictment candidly states that the alleged offenses were committed in their entirety outside the United States—they were “begun and committed outside the jurisdiction” of any State or district.
All three defendants are foreign citizens and foreign residents. […] The indictment contains no allegation that any of them committed any criminal act in the United States. In fact, the indictment contains no allegation that any of them ever entered the United States for any reason whatsoever, let alone in connection with the crime charged in the indictment. The gist of the indictment is that Vassiliev and Sidorenko sought to pay bribes and/or gratuities to Siciliano, who worked for an agency of the United Nations based in Canada, in order to influence contracts awarded by other foreign agencies. […]
These criminal counts are fundamentally flawed. Neither statute has extraterritorial application, so the indictment fails to state an offense under United States law. Even if the statutes were found to apply extraterritorially, the alleged facts in this case fail to allege minimum contacts or sufficient nexus between the defendants and the United States, so the Due Process Clause forbids this prosecution.”
Judge Breyer granted the motion to dismiss and his comments in this transcript make for an interesting read.
“What I’m going to do is read the facts as I have gleaned them from the indictment and I’d like the Government to — if the Government believes that I’ve misstated it, I would like you to make note.
The International Civil Aviation Organization has been a United Nations specialized agency since 1944. The United States has been a member of this agency since its formation. One of the agency’s responsibilities is standardizing machine readable passports. The standards that this agency established were used to determine which features would be utilized in passports in a variety of countries, including the United States.
The time period relevant to the indictment is 2005, 2010. And during this time, the United States made annual monetary contributions to the agencies exceeding $10,000 per year. Throughout this time period contributions from the United States constituted 25 percent of the agency’s annual budget.
Mr. Siciliano was an employee of this agency and was specifically assigned to work in the Machine Readable Travel Documents Program. Mr. Siciliano worked and resided in Canada, where the agency that we’ve just discussed is headquartered. He held a Canadian passport, but is actually a Venezuelan national.
Mr. Sidorenko and Mr. Vassiliev were chairmen of a Ukrainian conglomerate of companies that manufactured and supplied security and identity products and their consortium, how they acted, was called EDAPS. It’s called the EDAPS Consortium.
Mr. Sidorenko is a citizen of Ukraine, Switzerland and St. Kitts and Nevis. Not of the United States. But he primarily resided in Dubai during the relevant time period.
Mr. Vassiliev also resided in Dubai, but he is a citizen of Ukraine and St. Kitts and Nevis. He’s not an American citizen either.
And, of course, the company is not — I mean, the agency is not an American agency.
The indictment alleges that Mr. Sidorenko and Mr. Vassiliev provided money and other things of value to Mr. Siciliano in exchange for Mr. Siciliano using his position at this agency to benefit EDAPS, as well as Sidorenko and Vassiliev personally. That is to say, the allegation is that the — that Mr. Sidorenko and Vassiliev, Ukrainians, provided things of value to Mr. Siciliano in Canada in exchange for Mr. Siciliano using his position at a place in Canada to benefit an Ukrainian company, as well as these — Mr. Sidorenko and Mr. Vassiliev personally, these Ukrainians personally.
Mr. Siciliano sought to benefit the Ukrainian consortium by introducing and publicizing EDAPS to Government officials and entities, by arranging EDAPS to appear at the agency’s conferences, and by endorsing the Ukrainian consortium to other organizations and contacts.
The indictment also alleges that Mr. Siciliano assisted Mr. Vassiliev’s girlfriend in obtaining a visa to travel to Canada in 2007.
Around the same time Mr. Siciliano also considered arranging to obtain a visa for Mr. Sidorenko by hiring Mr. Sidorenko as a consultant for this agency.
Additionally, the three defendants arranged to have Mr. Siciliano’s son sent to Ukraine to work for Mr. Sidorenko.
During there time period, Mr. Siciliano wrote an email message to Mr. Vassiliev seeking payment of dues via wire transfer to a Swiss bank account.
A few years later, Mr. Siciliano sent an email advising Mr. Vassiliev and Mr. Sidorenko that they owed him three months payment. A few weeks after this email, Mr. Siciliano sent another email to Mr. Vassiliev referencing future projects, receiving the fruits of their marketing agreement, and inquiring about picking up his dues.
All of those activities, everything that I have said, occurred outside the United States of America between these three defendants, who, by the way, aren’t United States citizens, who never worked in the United States and whose use of the wires did not reach or pass through the United States.
[M]y first reaction in reading this indictment is that your office is to be congratulated because, apparently, you have reduced crime in the Northern District of California, and indeed in the United States of America, to such a point that you are using resources of your office to go after criminal activity that occurs in foreign countries and for that — that’s a rather interesting concept that, apparently, you thought this is a good use of assets and resources of the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California.
So it occurred to me: Is this statute or statutes, the honest services statute and the bribery statute, extraterritorial? And, fortunately, the Supreme Court has addressed this issue. As recently as 2010, they have said — Justice Scalia writing the opinion for a unanimous court, I might add, said that you just look at the statute. See what Congress said. Did Congress say it should be applied extraterritorial?
And you would concede, wouldn’t you, [DOJ attorney], there is nothing in the statute that talks about extraterritorial application, is there?
DOJ: There is nothing in the text of [the charged statutes]. I would submit that the legislative history of [a relevant statute] suggests that it was meant to be applied extraterritorially.
THE COURT: But you know there are those people, like judges, who look first to the statute. There is nothing in the statute.
DOJ: That is correct, your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay. So then if there is nothing in the statute, that doesn’t preclude necessarily the application of the statute extraterritorial, but we have to see whether or not that’s consistent with the general purpose of the statute.
DOJ: Correct, your Honor.
THE COURT: And it’s your view that since the Government contributes some funds to this agency, which is involved in national security — I guess we can talk about it in open court, can’t we?
DOJ: Yes, your Honor.
THE COURT: Okay. I didn’t want to clear the Court because of this strong national security interests that apparently are at issue here. But because they give money to this agency which is engaged in activities, some of which may impact national and international security arrangements, that’s the nexus for the United States Government to apply the statute in an extraterritorial way, is that correct?
DOJ: That’s certainly one of the key —
THE COURT: That’s your first point. We’ll get to the other points, but let’s deal with this first point first.
And so it occurred to me by that logic, the United States being a very generous country, gives a lot of money to a lot of foreign countries. They give over a billion dollars to Egypt. They give vast sums of money to Mexico. They give sums of money to many, many countries all over the world.
And then I wonder by their giving some money to a foreign country, does that then give them jurisdiction to apply statutes, such as the honest services statute, to individuals who are operating in that country or outside the United States?
For example, can you prosecute — you give some money, let’s say, to Mexico and — for programs involving security in Mexico, the border. Let’s make it right down your alley. And it turns out that somebody who is running one aspect of that program in Mexico, a Mexican national, favors his brother-in-law and takes a bribe from his brother-in-law to get his brother-in-law’s children a job somewhere.
Are you suggesting that the United States of America under an honest services theory could prosecute the individual in Mexico?
DOJ: Under honest services, there would have to be the use of a mailing or wire. Under [a relevant statute] I believe those facts would support a prosecution, if the funding were made pursuant to a federal program.
THE COURT: So, in other words, if I — it’s your view, your view, that the United States of America can police foreign companies in the exercise of their operation involving foreign citizens on matters unrelated to the program which the United States gave money for — that is, for the specific purpose of the program — and that they then have jurisdiction to act in that regard.
DOJ: It is, your Honor, if it is pursuant to a federal program.
THE COURT: And do you have one case that says that?
DOJ: We have Campbell, your Honor, which was a District of Columbia case in which an Australian national was charged with bribery under 666 for conduct in Afghanistan relating to his work with a private contractor that received aid from the US AID.
THE COURT: And the program involved was a program for the benefit of the United States, is that correct, in that case?
DOJ: It was a program through which the United States policy interests were advanced, your Honor.
THE COURT: So if there is ever, ever a policy interest of the United States of America in anything a foreign country — that occurs in a foreign country, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of California will vindicate the way the laws apply — the honest services law applies. You’re going to wipe out bribery and honest services throughout the world. I want to congratulate you for that.
And I never in my life, in 50 years of criminal practice, seen a more misguided prosecution as the one that you’ve brought. I just don’t even get it. I don’t get it, how you can — how you can use resources of the United States Attorney’s Office to prosecute some foreign nationals involved in a foreign company, engaged in conduct which was foreign, on doing things that weren’t directly related to the contribution of the United States to that entity.
DOJ: Your Honor —
THE COURT: Who did you get permission from to bring this prosecution? Anybody in Washington?
DOJ: We — this was a Northern District of California prosecution, your Honor.
THE COURT: Did you get permission from anyone in the Department of Justice in Washington DC to bring this prosecution?
DOJ: It was not required. We coordinated —
THE COURT: It implicates foreign countries, doesn’t it?
DOJ: It does, your Honor.
THE COURT: And you didn’t choose fit to ask the Department of Justice whether in their smarter sentencing, smarter criminal law enforcement program this is a good use of your resources?
DOJ: We received office approval. We also coordinated with the State Department, your Honor.
THE COURT: Pardon?
DOJ: We also coordinated with the State Department.
THE COURT: In other words, it was the State Department, and that was whether or not this person had diplomatic immunity. I’m not even going to address that. That’s another issue entirely.
But you’re telling me this was a decision of the United States Attorney to bring this prosecution without the knowledge of the Department of Justice.
DOJ: It was a duly authorized decision by this office to do so.
THE COURT: My suggestion, since I’m dismissing this indictment, is that you bring an appeal, right away. I would be very interested in what the Ninth Circuit has to say about this, whether they think that there is enough of a nexus to apply statutes, such as the bribery statute and the honest services statute, to the conduct that’s alleged in this particular case.”
Elsewhere in the transcript, Judge Breyer stated:
“They actually have law enforcement in Canada. If you’re so concerned about the way some Canadians are operating with a Canadian-based company in dealing with Ukrainians, you can always phone the Mounties and they will investigate it if they think it’s appropriate.”
This program, this program — there is no allegation here that somehow the program failed or was in jeopardy by virtue of — by virtue of this purportedly allegedly corrupt person giving a contract or favoring somebody in Ukraine. That’s not — that’s not what’s alleged here.”
Judge Breyer followed up his oral decision granting the motions to dismiss with this written opinion. In it, Judge Breyer states, among others things, as follows:
“Of course, the United States has some interest in eradicating bribery, mismanagement, and petty thuggery the world over. But under the government’s theory, there is no limit to the United States’s ability to police foreign individuals, in foreign governments or in foreign organizations, on matters completely unrelated to the United States’s investment, so long as the foreign governments or organizations receive at least $10,000 of federal funding. This is not sound foreign policy, it is not a wise use of scarce federal resources, and it is not, in the Court’s view, the law.”
“There is no allegation that even one dollar of the millions of dollars the United States presumably sent to ICAO was squandered.”
Although outside the FCPA context, Judge Breyer’s decision and reasoning is nevertheless relevant to FCPA enforcement actions against foreign actors that are frequently brought on sparse jurisdictional allegations.
Moreover, Judge Breyer’s comment that there was no allegation that the alleged bribery compromised the integrity of the program at issue is relevant to causation issues discussed in prior posts (see here).