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Entries in Vietnam (53)


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.


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.


Help Wanted For Siemens Report

One of ProPublica's outstanding investigative reporters, T. Christian Miller, wrote the story below (which ProPublica co-published with MSN Money). We reprint it under ProPublica's generous license ("You can republish our articles for free, if you credit us, link to us, and don't edit our material or sell it separately.")

If you have trouble accessing the DOJ and SEC charging documents linked in the story (we did), you can also find them at the bottom of our earlier post here.


Help Us Name Names in Siemens Corruption Scandal

by T. Christian Miller, ProPublica - December 22, 2008 1:05 pm EST

Get ready for the Siemens World Corruption Tour, 2001-2008. Siemens pleaded guilty last week to corruption across the globe, receiving a record-setting fine -- $1.6 billion (which sounds like a lot, but really, it's just 0.3 percent of their revenue during those years.)

In announcing the fine, the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission released formal complaints detailing how Siemens bribed government officials all around the world. (We published a story in Sunday's New York Times profiling the Siemens accountant at the center of the scandal.)

However -- and this is a big "however" if you're into accountability -- they released none of the names of the corrupt bureaucrats that took the cash or the Siemens officials who paid it.

This was done, Justice folks said, to protect the integrity of ongoing investigations and to comply with privacy laws in various countries.

At the hearing prosecutors seemed a bit wistful that they couldn't reveal the names, which were provided to Judge Richard Leon in a sealed file. Lori Weinstein, the dogged prosecutor who pursued the case, said the department could not provide exact names. But, she said, the documents were sprinkled with clues to provide "sufficient clarity" for the court to figure out who was who.

Some identifications are vague -- there are plenty of "government officials." But others are more specific. (Hello, "Wife of the former Nigerian Vice President, a dual U.S.-Nigerian citizen.") ProPublica figures that with the help of readers, we might be able to ID at least some of these folks. Below, you'll find descriptions of the bribees. Send us a name and a link sourcing the information.

To get things started, take the case of the Argentine identity card contract. The SEC's complaint said that Siemens paid bribes to a certain "president of Argentina" who left office in 1999. Not too hard to figure out that one -- Carlos Menem ran the country from 1989 to 1999. Looks like the buck really did stop there.

This is by no means an exhaustive list. As of last count, 16 countries had investigations ongoing into Siemens. Our list below includes only those bribery schemes detailed in the formal complaints by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission.

E-mail us if you find clues to figure out the other grafters.

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 21
National Identity Card contract (1998-2004)
Contract Amount: $1 billion
Bribe Amount: $40 million

  • President of Argentina until 1999 (Carlos Menem)
  • Minister of the Interior
  • Head of Immigration Control
  • Cabinet ministers

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 19
Mobile Phone contract (2004-2006)
Contract Amount: $40.9 million
Bribe Amount: $5.3 million

  • Son of then-Prime Minister
  • Minister of Posts & Telecommunications
  • Director of Procurement for the Bangladesh Telegraph & Telephone Board
  • In addition, Siemens Ltd. Bangladesh hired relatives of two BTTB and Ministry of Posts and Telecom officials.

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 14
Metro contracts (2001-2007)
Valencia and Maracaibo metro systems
Contract Amounts: $642 million
Bribe Amount: $16.7 million

  • A high-ranking member of the central Venezuela government
  • Two prominent Venezuelan attorneys acting on behalf of government officials
  • A former Venezuelan defense minister and diplomat

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 17
Power plants (2002-2005)
Contract Amount: $786 million
Bribe Amount: $20 million

  • Former director of the Israel Electric Company
  • Payments routed through brother-in-law of former CEO of Siemens Israel Ltd.

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 20
Telecommunications projects (2000-2001)
Contract Amount: $130 million
Bribe Amount: At least $4.5 million

  • Wife of the former Nigerian Vice President, a dual U.S.-Nigerian citizen who lived in the U.S.
  • "likely" the former President of Nigeria
  • "likely" the former Vice President of Nigeria

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 22
Hospital equipment sales (2005-2006)
Contract Amount: $6 million
Bribe Amount: $383,000

  • Government officials

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 27
Mobile network (2002)
Contract Amount: $35 million
Bribe Amount: $140,000
Note: Siemens did not win the project but agreed to pay 8 percent to 14 percent of project value to Vietnamese government officials

  • "likely" Vietnamese Ministry of Defense officials
  • Vietel, state-owned mobile phone network

Source: SEC Complaint, p.16
Metro trains and signaling devices contracts (2002-2007)
Contract Amount: $1 billion
Bribe Amount: $22 million

  • Government officials

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 18
High voltage lines (2002-2003)
Contract Amount: $838 million
Bribe Amount: $25 million

  • Government officials

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 23
Medical equipment sales (2003-2007)
Contract Amount: $295 million
Bribe Amount: $14.4 million

  • Deputy Director, Songyuan City Central Hospital, convicted in China and sentenced to 14 years in prison

Source: SEC Complaint, p.24
Hospital equipment sales (1998-2004)
Contract Amount: Unknown
Bribe Amount: $650,000

  • Chinese hospital officials

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 25
Traffic control system (2004-2006)
Contract Amount: $27 million
Bribe Amount: $741,419

  • Government officials

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 27
Hospital equipment (2000-2007)
Contract Amount: Unknown
Bribe Amount: $55 million

  • Russian state-owned hospital officials

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 26
Refinery modernization (2004)
Contract Amount: Unknown
Bribe Amount: $2.6 million

  • Senior official of Pemex, state-owned oil company

Source: SEC Complaint, p. 28
Oil for Food program (2000-2003)
Contract Amount: $124 million
Bribe Amount: $1.7 million

  • Iraqi Ministry of Electricity officials
  • Iraqi Ministry of Oil official
So who are these folks? Send us a name and a link sourcing the information.

Will readers of the FCPA Blog contribute to this story? Let's see.

* * *
A Siemens / Jefferson Link? Meanwhile, a story in the Dec. 24 edition of Harper's Magazine by Ken Silverstein refers to the earlier joint ProPublica/New York Times story about Siemens, and then says: "Now ProPublica has asked for help identifying some of the alleged recipients of the bribes who are described but not named in the SEC complaint. One of those people appears to be Jennifer Atiku-Abubakar, who is tied to the scandal involving the former Louisiana congressman William Jefferson and is also a donor to the Republican Party. But I want to emphasize that I have no way of knowing whether the charges made in the complaint about her are accurate. . . . According to this Washington Post story, she is the wife of Atiku Abubakar, the very controversial former vice president of Nigeria from 1999 to 2007."


Rocket Scientist Pleads Guilty

A Virginia-based scientist who sold controlled space-launch technology to China by bribing government officials there has pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Shu Quan-Sheng (left), 68, a native of China, naturalized U.S. citizen and PhD physicist, also pleaded guilty to two counts of violating the Arms Export Control Act by delivering defense articles and services to the PRC without first obtaining the required export license or written approval from the State Department.

In 2006, Shu offered "percentage points" 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.

For violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, Shu faces up to five years in prison and a fine of $250,000 or twice the gross gain resulting from the FCPA offense. He also faces up to 10 years in prison and a $1,000,000 fine for each of the two violations of the Arms Export Control Act. His sentencing is scheduled for April 6, 2009.

Shu's company, AMAC International Inc., is based in Newport News, Virginia and also has an office in Beijing. According to its website, AMAC is "a high tech company operating at the cutting edge of technology." The site says because of its accomplishments "in Research & Development of Superconducting RF Power Technologies, Magnetic Levitation and Cryogenics in space, AMAC has been awarded more than $2,000,000 of innovative research grants from the US Department of Energy (DOE) and National Aeronautics & Space Administration (NASA)."

We noted in a prior post that Shu's arrest in September 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.

View the Justice Department's November 17, 2008 release here.



More Individuals Indicted For FCPA Violations

The Justice Department said it arrested four people last week on charges that they and their company bribed Vietnamese officials in exchange for contracts to supply equipment and technology to government agencies in Vietnam.

The DOJ said U.S. citizens Nam Nguyen, 52, of Houston; Joseph Lukas, 59, of Smithville, N.J.; Kim Nguyen, 39, of Philadelphia; and An Nguyen, 32, of Philadelphia were arrested after they, along with Nexus Technologies Inc., were indicted on Sept. 4, 2008, by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia on one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and four substantive counts of violating the FCPA.

The arrests are more evidence of the government's stepped-up enforcement of the FCPA and its apparent strategy to target individuals.

In April 2008, Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein said the DOJ used to have the equivalent of two people assigned to FCPA cases but "now has as many as 12 prosecutors, assisted by a new team of FBI agents dedicated to these cases." And ProPublica's story about Jack Stanley's guilty plea said, "The active involvement of the FBI is particularly worrisome to [people who violate the FCPA]. In contrast to white-collar investigations handled by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI is believed to be prepared to use techniques more familiar to investigations of organized crime, including wiretapping and undercover agents."

According to the indictment, Nexus Technologies Inc., 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 alleges that from about 1999 through 2008, the defendants paid at least $150,000 to officials at Vietnam’s Ministries of Transport, Industry and Public Safety to secure supply contracts. The indictment says 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 conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gain; and a three year term of supervised release. The FCPA counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the gain; and a three year term of supervised release. Nexus Technologies Inc., faces a maximum $2 million fine per count, if convicted.

The DOJ's announcement said the case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement. The government hasn't said whether the four individuals or their company may have violated U.S. export rules.

As the Justice Department says, an indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

View the DOJ's Sept. 5, 2008 release here.

View a copy of the indictment here.


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