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Bizjet's Kowalewski pleads guilty to FCPA conspiracy

The former chief executive of Lufthansa's BizJet subsidiary pleaded guilty Thursday to conspiracy to bribe government officials in Mexico and Panama.

Bernd Kowalewski, 57, appeared in federal court in Tulsa, Oklahoma on the FCPA-related charge.

The DOJ said he bribed officials in Mexico and Panama in exchange for their help securing contracts for BizJet.

Kowalewski was arrested in Amsterdam in March this year. The DOJ said he waived extradition on June 20, 2014.

Bizjet provides aircraft maintenance, repair, and overhaul services.

In 2012, the Tulsa, Oklahoma-based firm agreed to pay an $11.8 million criminal fine and enter into a three-year deferred prosecution agreement with the DOJ to resolve FCPA offenses in Latin America.

Lufthansa Technik AG of Germany, Bizjet's owner, also entered into a three-year deferred prosecution with the DOJ.

The DOJ said in 2012 that BizJet was credited for its "voluntary disclosure, extraordinary cooperation, and extensive remediation in this case." 

Peter DuBois, Bizjet's former vice president of sales and marketing, and Neal Uhl, a former vice president of finance, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to violate the FCPA in 2013. They were sentenced to probation and home detention.

Jald Jensen, a former sales manager at BizJet, was indicted for conspiracy as well as money laundering. He's at large and believed to be living abroad, the DOJ said Thursday.

The defendants "paid bribes directly to foreign officials in Mexico, Panama and Brazil for assistance in securing contracts," the indictments said.

The defendants allegedly "funneled bribes through a shell company owned and operated by Jensen."

The shell company, Avionica International & Associates Inc., allegedly operated under the pretense of providing aircraft maintenance brokerage services "but in reality laundered money related to BizJet’s bribery scheme," the DOJ said. 

Avionica was located at Jensen’s personal residence in Van Nuys, California, and Jensen was the only officer, director and employee, according to the DOJ.

Lufthansa Technik is one of the world's biggest providers of aircraft services. It operates through more than 30 companies with about 25,000 employees worldwide. It's a 100% subsidiary of Deutsche Lufthansa, the flag carrier of Germany and the largest airline in Europe.

A copy of the DOJ's July 24, 2014 release is here.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog. He can be contacted here.