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Friday
Oct062017

Middleman in Landmark 72 bribe and fraud case jailed for 42 months

The con man who ripped off a father and son who thought they were bribing a Middle East sovereign wealth fund to land a real estate deal in Vietnam was sentenced to prison Thursday.

Malcolm Harris, 53, of New York City, was sentenced in federal court in New York City to 42 months.

Harris pleaded guilty in June to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

The judge Thursday sentenced him to 42 months on each count. But the sentences run concurrently so he won't serve more than 42 months.

Harris was part of a scheme to bribe a foreign official in a country in the Middle East.

The bribes were intended to help a South Korean construction company -- Keangnam Enterprises Co., Ltd. -- sell a commercial building in Hanoi, Vietnam to a Middle Eastern country’s sovereign wealth fund.

The building, Landmark 72, was valued at $800 million.

The purported bribe was supposed to be $2.5 million.

Harris was charged in a December 2016 indictment along with co-defendants Joo Hyun Bahn aka Dennis Bahn (Bahn) and his father, Ban Ki Sang (Ban).

Ban, 69, of Seoul, South Korea and Bahn, 38, of Tenafly, New Jersey, were each charged in federal court in Manhattan.

Ban is the brother of former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

The DOJ charged Ban and Bahn with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, three counts of violating the FCPA, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering, and one count of money laundering.

The son was arrested in Tenafly in January and released on bail. He also faces an additional charge of aggravated identity theft.

His father, Ban, is apparently still at large.

Ban was a senior executive at Keangnam. When the company faced a liquidity crisis, Ban allegedly convinced the company to hire his son, who worked as a broker at a commercial real estate firm in Manhattan, to secure an investor for Landmark 72.

Harris admitted that from 2013 until 2015, he took $500,000 from Ban and Bahn by posing in text messages and emails as an agent of a foreign official.

Harris told Bahn and Ban to deposit $500,000 into an account in the name of Muse Creative Consulting. In reality, Harris -- not the supposed foreign official -- controlled the account.

Harris used the money to pay for personal expenses.

Bahn and Ban are awaiting trial.

Prosecutors said a fourth man, San Woo, also known as John Woo, 35, of Edgewater, New Jersey, allegedly helped secure the $500,000 for the upfront bribe.

Woo was charged in a separate complaint with conspiracy to violate the FCPA. He was arrested at New York's JFK Airport in January and released on bail.

Landmark 72, also known as Hanoi Landmark 72, opened in 2012. It includes two 50-story office buildings and one 72-floor tower, the tallest building in Vietnam. There are apartments, offices, and hotels in the complex.

The chairman of Keangnam, Sung Woan-jong, committed suicide in April 2015 after being investigated for alleged corruption. He reportedly left a list of politicians in Korea he claimed to have bribed.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.