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FCPA Blog Daily News

Entries in Vietnam (51)

Friday
Jun102011

Best Weapon Against Graft? Try Education

A report this week by the VOA's Trung Nguyen said although Vietnam ranks 116 on the Corruption Perception Index and is one of Asia's most corrupt countries, citizens there want to clean things up. The problem is that they don't know how.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Oct192010

A Life Sentence In Vietnam, Where Risks Abound

The former boss of Ho Chi Minh City's transport department gets life in prison for taking bribes from a Japanese company. The Japanese executives who admitted paying the bribes aren't punished. FCPA cases involving Vietnam have proliferated.

Click to read more ...

Thursday
Sep162010

Four Sentenced For Vietnam Graft

The DOJ said today that three former employees and a partner of Nexus Technologies Inc., a Philadelphia-based company, were sentenced late yesterday for their roles in a conspiracy to bribe Vietnamese government officials.

Click to read more ...

Tuesday
Jun292010

Veraz Settles With SEC

San Jose, California-based VOiP company Veraz Networks, Inc. paid $300,000 to settle charges brought by the SEC that it violated the books and records and internal controls provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) by making illegal payments to foreign officials in China and Vietnam.

The SEC said the company hired a consultant in China who in 2007 and 2008 gave gifts and offered improper payments worth about $40,000 to officials at a government-controlled telco to win business for Veraz. Also in 2007 and 2008, a Veraz employee made improper payments to the CEO of a government-controlled company in Vietnam to win.

Veraz had disclosed the $300,000 settlement with the SEC in March. It said then that because of the ongoing compliance investigations, it had to delay filing its quarterly reports for March and May 2008. That resulted in NASDAQ warning Veraz "that its common stock may be subject to delisting." NASDAQ ultimately granted an extension for the filings, which were made in July 2008, allowing Veraz's common stock to continue to be listed.

The company said in November 2009 that it had spent $2.5 million to investigate and handle the FCPA compliance issues. The SEC began investigating the company in early 2008. Veraz then launched an internal investigation and discovered potential FCPA violations in China and Indonesia, which it self-reported. The SEC then requested documents related to Vietnam.

The SEC said without elaborating that it had help in its investigation from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

Veraz Networks trades on NASDAQ under the symbol VRAZ.

View the SEC's Litigation Release No. 21581 (June 29, 2010) in Securities and Exchange Commission v. Veraz Networks, Inc., Case No. CV-10-2849 (PVT) (N.D. Cal. filed June 29, 2010) here.

View the SEC's civil complaint against Veraz here.

Tuesday
Mar162010

Four Guilty Pleas In Vietnam Bribe Case

The Justice Department said Philadelphia-based export company Nexus Technologies Inc. and three employees pleaded guilty today to bribing Vietnamese officials.

Nexus pleaded guilty to conspiracy, and to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and the Travel Act in connection with commercial bribes and money laundering. Nam Nguyen, 54, of Houston and Vietnam, the president and owner of Nexus, and sibling An Nguyen, 34, of Philadelphia, each pleaded guilty to conspiracy, a substantive FCPA violation, a violation of the Travel Act, and money laundering. Kim Nguyen, 41, another sibling, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, a substantive FCPA violation, and money laundering.

They were arrested in September 2008, along with Joseph T. Lukas, 60, a partner in Nexus until 2005. He pleaded guilty in June 2009 to conspiracy and to violating the FCPA. The DOJ said he admitted in his plea that from 1999 to 2005, he and others at Nexus bribed Vietnamese officials in exchange for contracts with the officials' agencies. The bribes were falsely described in the company's books as "commissions."

Lukas now faces up to 10 years in prison and a possible $350,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled for April 6, 2010.

Nexus and the Nguyens admitted that from 1999 to 2008 they paid bribes of more than $250,000 to Vietnamese government officials in exchange for contracts. Nexus sold third-party underwater mapping and bomb containment equipment, helicopter parts, chemical detectors, satellite communication parts and air tracking systems.

The DOJ said Nexus acknowledged as part of its guilty plea that "it operated primarily through criminal means and agreed to cease operations."

Sentencing is scheduled for July 13, 2010. Nexus still faces a maximum fine of $27 million. Nam and An Nguyen each face a maximum sentence of 35 years in prison. Kim Nguyen faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

The government hasn't released the plea agreements for Nexus and the Nguyens; the plea agreement in U.S. v. Lukas remains under court seal.

A copy of the Justice Department's March 16, 2010 release can be viewed here.

Download a copy of the October 29, 2009 superseding indictment in U.S. v. Nexus Technologies, Inc. et al here.

Friday
Mar122010

Veraz Announces Expected Settlement

VOiP provider Veraz Networks said in an earnings release Thursday that it has reached agreement with the Securities and Exchange Commission to settle Foreign Corrupt Practices Act violations. It said it would pay a civil penalty of $300,000 and agree to entry of an injunction "prohibiting violations of the non-fraud provisions" of the FCPA. It also said the settlement still needs final approval by the SEC and the court. A copy of Veraz's March 11, 2010 release is here.

San Jose, California-based Veraz Networks trades on NASDAQ under the symbol VRAZ.

The SEC began investigating the company in early 2008. Veraz then launched an internal investigation and discovered potential FCPA violations in China and Indonesia, which it self-reported to the SEC. The SEC also requested documents related to Vietnam.

Because of the ongoing investigations, the company had to delay filing its quarterly reports for March and May 2008. That resulted in NASDAQ warning Veraz "that its common stock may be subject to delisting." NASDAQ ultimately granted an extension for the filings, which were made in July 2008, allowing Veraz's common stock to continue to be listed.

The company said in November 2009 that it had spent $2.5 million to investigate and handle the FCPA compliance issues.

*   *   *

A copy of Veraz's November 16, 2009 Form 10-Q is here. The company's disclosure in that filing regarding the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act said:

On April 3, 2008, the Company received a letter from the SEC informing it that the SEC was conducting a confidential inquiry, or SEC Inquiry, and requesting that the Company voluntarily produce documents in connection with the SEC Inquiry. On April 5, 2008, the Company’s Board of Directors appointed a special committee, or Special Committee, consisting entirely of independent directors to cooperate with the SEC in connection with the SEC Inquiry and to oversee an independent investigation into the matters raised by the SEC Inquiry. . . .

On July 17, 2008, Independent Counsel reported their findings to representatives of the SEC and, on July 21, 2008, provided to the SEC copies of certain documents collected by Independent Counsel during the course of its independent investigation. The Company provided all the requested documents to SEC.

As a result of the SEC Inquiry, the Company was not able to file timely its quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the first quarter ended March 31, 2008 and, on May 21, 2008, the Company received a notification letter from NASDAQ stating that its common stock may be subject to delisting in accordance the NASDAQ rules.

The Company’s management attended a hearing on July 24, 2008 to request that NASDAQ grant the Company’s request for an extension of time in which to comply with the NASDAQ listing standards. On July 29, 2008, the Company filed its quarterly report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended March 31, 2008 and now believes it is in compliance with all SEC filing requirements. Additionally, on August 6, 2008, the Company received notification from NASDAQ informing the Company that the NASDAQ hearing panel had determined to continue listing the Company’s common stock on the NASDAQ.

During the course of the SEC inquiry, the Company became aware of allegations of misconduct relating to the Company’s business practices in the Asia Pacific region that, if true, may constitute violations of the U.S. Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, or FCPA. These potential FCPA violations include alleged misconduct related to a Chinese customer and an Indonesian customer. In addition, the Special Committee was informed and made the Company aware of allegations of possible fraud perpetrated against the Company and violations of the Company’s Code of Conduct and Ethics, or Policy. The allegations of possible fraud and violations of the Policy involve payments from a reseller to certain non-management employees (whose employment has since been terminated) and other potentially inappropriate commercial relationships between non-management employees and a reseller.

On January 27, 2009, the Company received a subpoena from the SEC requesting documents related to the Company’s business practices in Vietnam. In connection with such SEC investigation, the Company produced documents and provided testimony relevant to the SEC’s investigation and is continuing to cooperate with the SEC in its investigation. In November 2009, the Staff of the SEC contacted the Company concerning some of the transactions described above and the Company is cooperating with the Staff.

At the current time, the Company cannot determine the probability of or quantify the amount of any fines or penalties associated with the SEC matters discussed above.

There were no expenses incurred related to SEC investigation in the three and nine months ended September 30, 2009. During the three and nine months ended September 30, 2008, the Company had incurred SEC investigation expenses of $0.2 million and $2.3 million, respectively. To date, the Company has incurred expenses related to the SEC investigation of approximately $2.5 million.

Sunday
Nov222009

"We've got to conduct ourselves like men"

If you haven't seen (or heard) last week's episode of Bill Moyers' Journal on PBS called LBJ's Path To War, it's something special. The hour-long program consists almost entirely of excerpts from President Johnson's recorded phone calls with advisors and congressional leaders. He's talking to them about the Vietnam problem.

The first call is from November 1963, when Johnson had just taken office after JFK's assassination. There were about 15,000 U.S. military advisors on the ground in South Vietnam. The last call we hear is from the end of 1965, when the build-up of combat forces had reached 184,000 and there was no end in sight.

It's eerie to listen as Johnson struggles to find a military strategy for Indochina that's politically acceptable back home. Several times you hear him fantasizing about a stronger and more legitimate government in Saigon, one that could provide an honorable exit by inviting U.S. troops to leave its soil. But as we all know, he never found a peace partner there -- only corruption and infighting. As Johnson slid deeper into war, he described himself as a victim trapped by events. There's no hint he ever saw himself as a leader who could shape history. But that's what he did.

Eavesdropping on the commander-in-chief from our time now -- and knowing how the catastrophe that Vietnam became destroyed his presidency and cost maybe a million lives, including 56,000 Americans -- is almost unbearably frustrating. Like Marty McFly in Back To The Future, you want to yell, "No, don't do that."

Bill Moyers, who was working for LBJ in the White House during those years, closes the program with thoughts about Afghanistan. Although the world is different, he says, we're once again "fighting in remote provinces against an enemy who can bleed us slowly and wait us out, because he will still be there when we are gone."

Afghanistan ranked 179 out of 180 on the 2009 Corruption Perception Index, and 7th worst on Foreign Policy's Failed States Index. So the idea of finding a stable and legitmate partner in any government there is another fantasy. That leaves today's commander-in-chief with the same two military options Johnson himself said he had: Go all the way in or get all the way out. Johnson did neither.

"We will never know what would have happened if Lyndon Johnson had said no to more war," Moyers says. "We know what happened because he said yes."

Read prior posts about Afghanistan here and here.

Monday
Jun292009

Guilty Plea In Vietnam Bribery Case

A former executive of a Philadelphia-based export company pleaded guilty Monday to being part of a conspiracy to bribe Vietnamese government officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

Joseph T. Lukas, 60, a resident of New Jersey, was a partner in Nexus Technologies Inc. until 2005. He admitted that from 1999 to 2005, he and other Nexus employees agreed to pay, and knowingly paid, bribes to Vietnamese government officials in exchange for contracts with the officials' agencies. The bribes were falsely described in the company's books as "commissions."

Lukas now faces up to 10 years in prison and a possible $350,000 fine. His sentencing is scheduled for April 6, 2010.

He was arrested in September 2008, a day after being indicted by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia on one count of conspiracy to bribe Vietnamese public officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one substantive count of violating the FCPA. The indictment also charged the company and alleged co-conspirators Nam Nguyen, Kim Nguyen and An Nguyen, all U.S. citizens, with similar violations. Those cases are still pending.

According to the indictment, Nexus, a privately-held Delaware company with offices in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Vietnam, sold third-party underwater mapping and bomb containment equipment, helicopter parts, chemical detectors, satellite communication parts and air tracking systems to the government of Vietnam.

The indictment charged that the defendants paid at least $150,000 to officials at Vietnam’s Ministries of Transport, Industry and Public Safety to secure supply contracts. It said Nam Nguyen negotiated contracts and bribes with Vietnamese government officials while Lukas negotiated with vendors in the United States. Kim and An Nguyen allegedly arranged for the transfer of funds at Nam Nguyen’s direction.

The company's website (in English and Vietnamese) says:

Nexus specializes in supplying equipment and consulting / system integrating services for five high-growth, state-funded industries:

* Petroleum
* Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution
* Civil Aviation
* Marine & Sea Ports
* Other Heavy Industries

Doing business in Asia requires relationships, trust, and the time to build them. Nexus is proud to have established, through its consistent presence and reliable performance, trusted relationships with customers.

The three other individual defendants in the case and Nexus are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

View the DOJ's June 29, 2009 release here.
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Wednesday
Apr082009

Rocket Scientist Sentenced To Prison

The Virginia-based physicist who sold controlled space-launch technology to China by bribing government officials there has been sentenced to 51 months in prison. Shu Quan-Sheng (left), 68, a native of China, naturalized U.S. citizen and PhD physicist, pleaded guilty in November 2008 to one count of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and two counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act. Shu had already forfeited $386,740 to the federal government before being sentenced to prison.

Shu is the President, Secretary and Treasurer of AMAC International Inc., a high-tech company based in Newport News, with another office in Beijing. AMAC performs research through grants funded by the Small Business Research program on behalf of the Department of Energy and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Shu violated the FCPA by offering "percentage points" in 2006 worth a total of $189,300 to officials at a research institute affiliated with the China Academy of Launch Vehicle Technology. He was trying to land a contract to develop a liquid hydrogen tank system for a heavy payload launch facility located on Hainan Island in the PRC. In January 2007, the $4 million hydrogen liquefier project was awarded to a French company that Shu represented.

Shu violated the Arms Export Control Act by willfully exporting a defense service from the United States to the PRC without first obtaining the required export license or written approval from the State Department. He provided the PRC with assistance in the design and development of a cryogenic fueling system for space launch vehicles to be used at the heavy payload launch facility on Hainan.

The investigation involved the FBI, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement.

In a prior post we noted that Shu's arrest in September 2008 was similar to arrests earlier that month of U.S. citizens Nam Nguyen, Joseph Lukas, Kim Nguyen, and An Nguyen, along with their Philadelphia-based company, Nexus Technologies (see our post here). They were charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and four substantive counts of violating the FCPA. They're accused of bribing government officials in Vietnam to secure contracts to supply high-tech items -- including third-party underwater mapping and bomb containment equipment, helicopter parts, chemical detectors, satellite communication parts and air tracking systems. That case doesn't yet involve charges under U.S. export laws.

Download the DOJ's April 7, 2009 release here.
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Sunday
Feb152009

Vietnam In The News

Last month we reported the conviction in a Tokyo court of three Japanes executives and their company on charges of bribing a senior Vietnamese government official. The illegal payments of $820,000 were intended to secure contracts for road projects backed by Japanese aid money. In court, the recipient of the bribes was identified as Huynh Ngoc Sy, an official in Ho Chi Minh City.

Last week, the Vietnam News Agency reported the arrest of the same Mr. Sy, 56, for "abuse of power." He was the former deputy director of Ho Chi Minh City’s Department of Transport, and the former director of the East-West Highway and City Water Environment Improvement projects. After his arrest, investigators from the Ministry of Public Security’s Anti-corruption Department searched his house. Police also arrested Sy’s deputy, Le Qua, and searched his house.

In November last year, Sy was suspended from his job and banned from traveling outside Vietnam. That action came after the country's Prime Minister, Nguyen Tan Dung, directed his government to "co-operate with Japanese agencies investigating allegations that officials of a Japanese firm had bribed Vietnamese officials to get project contracts."

Vietnam's biggest aid provider is Japan. But the bribery scandal caused such a flap in Japan that it suspended aid, including low-interest loans for infrastructure projects. Vietnam's state television reported last week that following Sy's arrest, Vietnam's prime minister asked Japan to resume the loan program.

Japan has a low incidence of domestic public corruption -- it ranked 18th on the 2008 Corruption Perception Index, tied with Belgium and the United States. But until this case, it hadn't prosecuted any overseas bribery cases. In June 2008, the OECD criticized Japan for its "lagging" enforcement. We speculated that this case went to court only because it involved the misuse of Japanese taxpayer funds in the foreign aid program.

Vietnam is ranked 121st on the 2008 Corruption Perception Index, tied with Nepal, Nigeria, Sao Tome and Principe, and Togo. Despite Vietnam's corruption-prone reputation, it wasn't named in any Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement actions until recently. In September 2008, U.S. citizens Nam Nguyen, Joseph Lukas, Kim Nguyen, and An Nguyen, along with their Philadelphia-based company, Nexus Technologies, were charged under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act with bribing government officials in Vietnam. The alleged bribes were intended to secure contracts to supply high-tech items -- including third-party underwater mapping and bomb containment equipment, helicopter parts, chemical detectors, satellite communication parts and air tracking systems. Their trial is pending.

In December 2008, Siemens' guilty plea to FCPA books and records violations involved Vietnam. The Securities and Exchange Commission's complaint (download the pdf here) said Siemens' medical division "paid $183,000 in early 2005 and $200,000 in early 2006 in connection with the sale of approximately $6 million of medical devices on two projects involving the Vietnamese Ministry of Health." And in 2002, the complaint said, Siemens' communications division paid about $140,000 in bribes as "part of a much larger bribery scheme concocted by high-level managers at Siemens regional company in Vietnam, SLV, to pay bribes to government officials at Vietel and the Vietnamese Ministry of Defense in order to acquire Phase I of the Vietel GSM tender."
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Sunday
Feb012009

It's A Start

We've never come across any good news to report about Japan's overseas anticorruption enforcement. Until now, that is. Last Thursday, according to an AFP report, a court in Tokyo convicted three former executives and their consulting company for bribery in Vietnam.

The three men -- Haruo Sakashita, 62, Kunio Takasu, 66, and Tsuneo Sakano, 59, all former executives of Tokyo-based Pacific Consultants International, or PCI -- admitted bribing a senior Vietnamese government official to secure contracts for road projects backed by Japanese aid money. The Japanese press said the former PCI executives admitted paying $820,000 in bribes to Huynh Ngoc Sy, who was then the Ho Chi Minh City senior transport official named in the Tokyo trial. Prosecutors said PCI had promised Sy a total of $2.6 million for awarding consulting contracts to the firm in connection with road projects in Vietnam financed by Japan's Official Development Assistance program. The scandal caused by the case resulted in Japan's suspending all aid loans to Vietnam.

"The crime was devious, organized and calculated. PCI systematically supplied cash to foreign government employees with the agreement of the top cadre," said the Tokyo District Court judge. "This has inevitably led to a loss of confidence in our country's Official Development Assistance activities, and the result is serious," he said.

Despite his tough talk, the judge suspended the ¥70 million ($780,000) fine he imposed on the defendants and didn't sentence the men to any prison time. AFP said in its report, "Japanese courts often spare prison time, particularly for white-collar crime, if the accused admit the allegations."

Japan is among the 37 countries that have joined the OECD Convention on Combating the Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions. But along with the United Kingdom, Japan comes in for regular criticism from the OECD for failing to prosecute overseas bribery. In this case, we suspect the Japanese government was forced to act because tax-payer funded foreign aid was involved.
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Friday
Jan092009

Aon Pays £5.25 Million Corruption Fine

The U.K.'s Financial Services Authority said yesterday that it has fined Aon Ltd £5.25 million ($8.05 million) for failing to recognize and control the risks of overseas payments being used as bribes. The fine is the largest the FSA has levied for financial crimes. Aon Ltd is the principal U.K. subsidiary of Chicago-based Aon Corporation, the world's biggest insurance broker.

Aon Corporation disclosed in November 2007 an internal investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and non-U.S. anti-corruption laws. Aon said then in its Form 10-Q that it had self-reported the investigation to the Department of Justice, the Securities and Exchange Commission and others, and that it had already agreed with U.S. prosecutors to toll any applicable statute of limitations. The U.S. investigations are still pending.

This is now the third case brought by U.K. authorities involving overseas bribery by U.K. companies. In September 2008, the Overseas Anti-Corruption Unit of the City of London Police said an employee of CBRN Team Ltd, a U.K. security consulting firm, and an official of Uganda, had pleaded guilty to bribery charges. The CBRN employee received a suspended sentence and the Ugandan official was sentenced to twelve months in jail. And in October last year, the U.K.'s Serious Fraud Office reached a £2.25 million civil settlement with construction firm Balfour Beatty plc for alleged unlawful accounting in connection with overseas "payment irregularities" which it self-reported.

Apparently to emphasize the new willingness of her agency and other U.K. authorities to prosecute overseas bribery, Margaret Cole, the FSA's director of enforcement, said:

The involvement of UK financial institutions in corrupt or potentially corrupt practices overseas undermines the integrity of the UK financial services sector. The FSA has an important role to play in the steps being taken by the UK to combat overseas bribery and corruption. We have worked closely with other law enforcement agencies in this case and will continue to take robust action focused on firms’ systems and controls in this area.
According to its website, the Financial Services Authority is an independent non-governmental body with statutory powers under the Financial Services and Markets Act 2000. It has a range of rule-making, investigatory and enforcement powers intended to "promote efficient, orderly and fair financial markets and help retail financial service consumers get a fair deal." The Treasury appoints its 12-member board.

Between January 2005 and September 2007, according to the FSA, Aon Ltd didn't properly assess or control the risks involved in its dealings with overseas firms and individuals who helped it win business. "As a result of Aon Ltd’s weak control environment, the firm made various suspicious payments, amounting to approximately US$7 million, to a number of overseas firms and individuals." The payments were made in Bahrain, Bangladesh, Bulgaria, Burma, Indonesia and Vietnam.

The FSA said Aon cooperated fully and agreed to settle early in the investigation, qualifying for a 30% discount under the FSA’s settlement discount scheme. Without the discount the fine would have been £7.5 million.

View the FSA's January 8, 2009 release here.

Download the FSA's Final Notice (January 6, 2009) here.

View Aon's January 8, 2009 statement here.
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