A federal indictment unsealed Wednesday charged six foreign nationals, including a Ukrainian businessman and a government official in India, with an alleged racketeering conspiracy to bribe officials in India to gain titanium mining rights.
Five of the six defendants were also charged with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, among other offenses.
Beginning in 2006, the DOJ said, the defendants allegedly conspired to pay at least $18.5 million in bribes for mining licenses in the Indian coastal state of Andhra Pradesh. The mining project was expected to generate more than $500 million annually from the sale of titanium products, including sales to unnamed “Company A,” headquartered in Chicago, the DOJ said.
One defendant, Dmitry Firtash, aka “Dmytro Firtash” and “DF,” 48, a Ukrainian national, was arrested March 12, 2014, in Vienna, Austria. He was released on March 21 after posting bail equivalent to $174 million, and he pledged to remain in Austria until the end of extradition proceedings.
Five other defendants remain at large:
- Andras Knopp, 75, a Hungarian businessman
- Suren Gevorgyan, 40, of Ukraine
- Gajendra Lal, 50, an Indian national and permanent resident of the United States who formerly resided in Winston-Salem, North Carolina
- Periyasamy Sunderalingam, aka “Sunder,” 60, of Sri Lanka, and
- K.V.P. Ramachandra Rao, aka “KVP” and “Dr. KVP,” 65, a member of Parliament in India who was an official of the state government of Andhra Pradesh and a close advisor to the now-deceased chief minister of the State of Andhra Pradesh, Y.S. Rajasekhara Reddy.
The five-count indictment was returned under seal by a federal grand jury in Chicago on June 20, 2013.
All six defendants were charged with one count each of racketeering conspiracy and money laundering conspiracy, and two counts of interstate travel in aid of racketeering.
Five defendants, excluding Rao, were charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.
"According to the indictment, Firtash was the leader of the enterprise and caused the participation of certain Group DF companies in the project, the DOJ said.
"Firtash allegedly met with Indian government officials, including Chief Minister Reddy, to discuss the project and its progress, and authorized payment of at least $18.5 million in bribes to both state and central government officials in India to secure the approval of licenses for the project," the DOJ said.
The indictment listed 57 money transfers totaling more than $10.59 million from 2006 through 2010.
The DOJ is seeking forfeiture of Firtash's interest in 14 companies registered in Austria, 18 companies registered in the British Virgin Islands, as well as 127 other companies registered in Cyprus, Germany, Hungary, the Netherlands, Seychelles, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom, and 41 bank accounts in several of the same countries.
The indictment also seeks forfeiture from all six defendants of more than $10.59 million.
The DOJ's April 2, 2014 release is here.
Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.