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Wednesday
Jul072010

Bribes That Breach Security

Hologram on a 50-Euro bill.Last week Canadian authorities said they've charged Nazir Karigar, a Canadian citizen, with violating the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. He allegedly bribed an Indian official to win a contract for his company.

According to the Globe, Karigar worked for Cryptometrics of Ottawa. The company develops facial recognition software for airports and governments around the globe and its "engineers are accustomed to dealing with the security industry." 

Is the security aspect of the case important? It could be.

Karigar is the first individual charged under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act. He can't be the first Canadian involved in bribery abroad. Was he charged because his alleged crime compromised airport security in India, a country with security problems that concern the rest of the world?

The White House this year said overseas corruption is "a severe impediment to development and global security." We've reported that Kenyan airport and border security contracts were allegedly tainted by corruption. That led the U.S. to bar entry of some Kenyan officials and the U.K. did likewise. (President Obama went to Kenya in 2006 and talked about the sleaze there.)

The Australian federal police are investigating Securency, the polymer banknote-maker half owned by the Reserve Bank of Australia. The case has security implications. There have been persistent rumors that Securency paid bribes and offered favors to win currency-printing contracts in Asia, Africa and Latin America. The integrity of any country's printed money supply is a global concern.

An older U.S. case with security-related loose ends involves American Bank Note Holographics. It prints currencies, travelers and other checks, and produces credit cards and holograms for use on security-sensitive surfaces. In July 2001, Joshua Cantor, the company's president, pleaded guilty to a four-count federal criminal information. It charged him with conspiracy to defraud the U.S., a books-and-records violation, making false statements to auditors, and conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The charges arose from bribes paid on behalf of American Bank Note in Saudi Arabia. Then in August 2003, Morris Weissman, the former CEO and chairman of the company, was convicted of fraud after a long trial in Manhattan.

Neither Cantor nor Weissman have been sentenced yet, despite a nine-year-old guilty plea and a seven-year-old jury-trial conviction. Is it because of their knowledge of the security-related industry? Have they been helping American and other authorities track down corruption that might make borders leaky and put currencies at risk?

There may not be any visible links among Cantor and Weissman, Securency, Kenyan graft, and Nazir Karigar. But there's a common thread of global security running through them.

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