Eight Former Senior Executives and Agents of Siemens Charged in Alleged $100 Million Foreign Bribe Scheme

December 13, 2011

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) on December 13, 2011 released the following:

“WASHINGTON— Eight former executives and agents of Siemens AG and its subsidiaries have been charged for allegedly engaging in a decade-long scheme to bribe senior Argentine government officials to secure, implement and enforce a $1 billion contract with the Argentine government to produce national identity cards, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara for the Southern District of New York and Ronald T. Hosko, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division.

The defendants charged in the indictment returned late yesterday are:

  • Uriel Sharef, a former member of the central executive committee of Siemens AG;
  • Herbert Steffen, a former chief executive officer of Siemens Argentina;
  • Andres Truppel, a former chief financial officer of Siemens Argentina;
  • Ulrich Bock, Stephan Signer, and Eberhard Reichert, former senior executives of Siemens Business Services (SBS); and
  • Carlos Sergi and Miguel Czysch, who served as intermediaries and agents of Siemens in the bribe scheme.

The indictment charges the defendants and their co-conspirators with conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and the wire fraud statute, money laundering conspiracy and wire fraud.

“Today’s indictment alleges a shocking level of deception and corruption,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “The indictment charges Siemens executives, along with agents and conduits for the company, with committing to pay more than $100 million in bribes to high-level Argentine officials to win a $1 billion contract. Business should be won or lost on the merits of a company’s products and services, not the amount of bribes paid to government officials. This indictment reflects our commitment to holding individuals, as well as companies, accountable for violations of the FCPA.”

“As alleged, the defendants in this case bribed Argentine government officials in two successive administrations and paid off countless others in a successful effort to secure a billion dollar contract,” said U.S. Attorney Bharara. “When the project was terminated, they even sought to recover the profits they would have reaped from a contract that was awarded to them illegitimately in the first place. Bribery corrupts economic markets and creates an unfair playing field for law-abiding companies. It is critical that we hold individuals as well as corporations accountable for such corruption as we are doing today.”

“Backroom deals and corrupt payments to foreign officials to obtain business wear away public confidence in our global marketplace,” said FBI Special Agent in Charge Hosko of the Washington Field Office’s Criminal Division. “The investigation into this decades-long scheme serves as an example that the FBI is committed to curbing corruption and will investigate those who try to advance their businesses through foreign bribery.”

According to the indictment, the government of Argentina issued a tender for bids in 1994 to replace an existing system of manually created national identity booklets with state of the art national identity cards (the DNI project). The value of the DNI project was $1 billion. In 1998, the Argentine government awarded the DNI project to a special-purpose subsidiary of Siemens AG.

The indictment alleges that during the bidding and implementation phases of the project, the defendants and their co-conspirators caused Siemens to commit to paying nearly $100 million in bribes to sitting officials of the Argentine government, members of the opposition party and candidates for office who were likely to come to power during the performance of the project. According to the indictment, members of the conspiracy worked to conceal the illicit payments through various means. For instance, Bock made cash withdrawals from Siemens AG general-purpose accounts in Germany totaling approximately $10 million, transported the cash across the border into Switzerland and deposited the funds into Swiss bank accounts for transfer to officials. Bock, Truppel, Reichert, and other conspirators also allegedly caused Siemens to wire transfer more than $7 million in bribes to a bank account in New York disguised as a foreign exchange hedging contract relating to the DNI project. Over the duration of the conspiracy, the conspirators allegedly relied on at least 17 off-shore shell companies associated with Sergi, Czysch and other intermediaries to disguise and launder the funds, often documenting the payments through fake consulting contracts.

In May 1999, according to the indictment, the Argentine government suspended the DNI project, due in part to instability in the local economy and an impending presidential election. When a new government took power in Argentina, and in the hopes of getting the DNI project resumed, members of the conspiracy allegedly committed Siemens to paying additional bribes to the incoming officials and to satisfying existing obligations to officials of the outgoing administration, many of whom remained in influential positions within the government.

When the project was terminated in May 2001, members of the conspiracy allegedly responded with a multi-faceted strategy to overcome the termination. According to the indictment, the conspirators sought to recover the anticipated proceeds of the DNI project, notwithstanding the termination, by causing Siemens AG to file a fraudulent arbitration claim against the Republic of Argentina in Washington, D.C. The claim alleged wrongful termination of the contract for the DNI project and demanded nearly $500 million in lost profits and expenses. Members of the conspiracy allegedly caused Siemens to actively hide from the tribunal the fact that the contract for the DNI project had been secured by means of bribery and corruption, including tampered witness statements and pleadings that falsely denied the existence of corruption.

In related actions, the indictment also alleges that members of the conspiracy continued the bribe scheme, in part to prevent disclosure of the bribery in the arbitration and to ensure Siemens’ ability to secure future government contracts in Argentina and elsewhere in the region. In four installments between 2002 and 2007, members of the conspiracy allegedly caused Siemens to pay approximately $28 million in further satisfaction of the obligations. Conspirators continued to conceal these additional payments through various means. For example, Sharef, Truppel and other members of the conspiracy allegedly caused Siemens to transfer approximately $9.5 million through fictitious transactions involving a Siemens business division that had no role in the DNI project. They also caused Siemens to pay an additional $8.8 million in 2007 under the legal cover of a separate arbitration initiated in Switzerland by the intermediaries to enforce a sham $27 million contract from 2001 between SBS and Mfast Consulting, a company controlled by their co-conspirator intermediaries, which consolidated existing bribe commitments into one contract. The conspirators caused Siemens to quietly settle the arbitration, keeping all evidence of corruption out of the proceeding. The settlement agreement included a provision preventing Sergi, Czysch and another intermediary from testifying in, or providing information to, the Washington arbitration.

Siemens’s corrupt procurement of the DNI project was not exposed during the lifespan of the conspiracy, and, in February 2007, the arbitral tribunal in Washington sided with Siemens AG, awarding the company nearly $220 million on its DNI claims, plus interest. On Aug. 12, 2009, following Siemens’ corporate resolutions with the U.S. and German authorities—new management of Siemens caused Siemens AG to forego its right to receive the award and, as a result, the company never claimed the award money.

The indictment charges the defendants with conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery, books and records and internal control provisions of the FCPA; conspiracy to commit wire fraud; conspiracy to commit money laundering; and substantive wire fraud.

The charges announced today follow the Dec. 15, 2008, guilty pleas by Siemens AG and its subsidiary, Siemens S.A. (Siemens Argentina), to criminal violations of the FCPA. As part of the plea agreement, Siemens AG and Siemens Argentina agreed to pay fines of $448.5 million and $500,000, respectively.

In a parallel civil action, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) announced charges against executives and agents of Siemens. The department acknowledges and expresses its appreciation of the significant assistance provided by the staff of the SEC during the course of these parallel investigations.

Today’s charges follow, in large part, the laudable actions of Siemens AG and its audit committee in disclosing potential FCPA violations to the department after the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office initiated an investigation. Siemens AG and its subsidiaries disclosed these violations after initiating an internal FCPA investigation of unprecedented scope; shared the results of that investigation; cooperated extensively and authentically with the department in its ongoing investigation; and took remedial action, including the complete restructuring of Siemens AG and the implementation of a sophisticated compliance program and organization.

The department and the SEC closely collaborated with the Munich Public Prosecutor’s Office in bringing this case. The high level of cooperation, including sharing information and evidence, was made possible by the use of mutual legal assistance provisions of the 1997 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development Convention on Combating Bribery of Foreign Public Officials in International Business Transactions.

The case is being prosecuted by Principal Deputy Chief Jeffrey H. Knox of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, and by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Jason P. Hernandez and Sarah McCallum of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York. The Fraud Section of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and the Complex Frauds Unit of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York are handling the case. The case was investigated by FBI agents who are part of the Washington Field Office’s dedicated FCPA squad. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in this matter.”

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Douglas McNabb – McNabb Associates, P.C.’s
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Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write and/or report extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN Sanctions Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.


Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez Convicted by a Federal Jury on All Counts for Their Involvement in the Scheme to Bribe Haiti Officials

August 7, 2011

The U.S. Attorney’s Office Southern District of Florida on August 5, 2011 released the following:

“TWO TELECOMMUNICATIONS EXECUTIVES CONVICTED BY MIAMI JURYON ALL COUNTS FOR THEIR INVOLVEMENT IN SCHEME TO BRIBE OFFICIALS AT STATE-OWNED TELECOMMUNICATIONS COMPANY IN HAITI

Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez, former executives of Terra Telecommunications Corp., have been convicted by a federal jury on all counts for their roles in a scheme to pay bribes to Haitian government officials at Telecommunications D’Haiti S.A.M (Haiti Teleco), a state-owned telecommunications company. The jury reached its verdict yesterday after five hours of deliberations, following a two-and-a-half-week trial.

The convictions were announced by U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer for the Southern District of Florida; Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division; and Special Agent in Charge Jose A. Gonzalez of Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation Division (IRS-CID), Miami Field Office.

“These individuals conspired and made corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business advantages for their company,” said U.S. Attorney Ferrer. “The FCPA helps to create a more level playing field in which businesses can compete fairly and sends the message that American businesses are simply not up for sale.”

“These defendants authorized more than $800,000 in illegal bribe payments to Haitian officials in exchange for business advantages – a clear violation of the FCPA,” said Assistant Attorney General Breuer. “This verdict is another powerful example that bribery of government officials – whether at home or abroad – has serious consequences. In finding the defendants guilty on all charged counts, the jury sent an unmistakable message that paying off foreign officials does not, in fact, pay off.”

“These convictions send a strong and clear message that we will aggressively pursue investigations on subjects that use shell companies to launder funds,” said IRS Special Agent in Charge Gonzalez. “IRS-CID will utilize its financial investigative expertise to unravel any complex money laundering scheme leaving no financial stones unturned.”

Joel Esquenazi, 52, of Miami, and Carlos Rodriguez, 55, of Davie, Fla., were convicted of one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and wire fraud; seven counts of FCPA violations; one count of money laundering conspiracy; and 12 counts of money laundering.

According to the evidence presented at trial, Esquenazi was the president and Rodriguez was the executive vice president of Terra, which was headquartered in Miami-Dade County, Fla. Haiti Teleco was the sole provider of land line telephone service in Haiti. Terra had a series of contracts with Teleco that allowed the company’s customers to place telephone calls to Haiti.

According to the evidence presented at trial, the defendants participated in a scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from November 2001 through March 2005, during which time the telecommunications company paid more than $890,000 to shell companies to be used for bribes to Teleco officials. Esquenazi and Rodriguez authorized these bribe payments to successive directors of international relations at Teleco.

The purpose of these bribes, according to the evidence presented at trial, was to obtain various business advantages from the Haitian officials for Terra, including the issuance of preferred telecommunications rates, reductions in the number of minutes for which payment was owed, and the continuance of Terra’s telecommunications connection with Haiti. To conceal the bribe payments, the defendants used various shell companies to receive and forward the payments. In addition, they created false records claiming that the payments were for “consulting services,” which were never intended to be performed or actually performed.

Esquenazi was remanded to the custody of the U.S. Marshals. Rodriguez remains free on bond. Sentencing for both defendants currently is scheduled for Oct. 13, 2011.

On April 27, 2009, Antonio Perez, a former controller at Terra, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. On Jan. 12, 2010, he was sentenced to 24 months in prison, which he is currently serving.

On May 15, 2009, Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribe money from telecommunications companies. On July 30, 2010, he was sentenced to 57 months in prison, which he is currently serving.

On Feb. 19, 2010, Jean Fourcand, the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering for receiving and transmitting bribe monies in the scheme. On May 5, 2010, he was sentenced to six months in prison.

On March 12, 2010, Robert Antoine, a former director of international affairs for Haiti Teleco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribes from Miami-based telecommunications companies. On June 2, 2010, he was sentenced to 48 months in prison, which he is currently serving.

In a superseding indictment, Washington Vasconez Cruz, Amadeus Richers, Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., Patrick Joseph, Jean Rene Duperval and Marguerite Grandison are charged in a related scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from December 2001 through January 2006. No trial date is currently set. An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The conspiracy to commit violations of the FCPA and wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The FCPA counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The conspiracy to commit money laundering count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The indictment also seeks forfeiture which will determined by the court at a later date.

The government’s investigation is ongoing. The Department of Justice is grateful to the government of Haiti for continuing to provide substantial assistance in gathering evidence during this investigation. In particular, Haiti’s financial intelligence unit, the Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF), the Bureau des Affaires Financières et Economiques (BAFE), which is a specialized component of the Haitian National Police, and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security provided significant cooperation and coordination in this ongoing investigation.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read Federal Criminal Defense Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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Florida Telecommunications Company, Two Executives, an Intermediary and Two Former Haitian Government Officials Indicted for Their Alleged Participation in Foreign Bribery Scheme

July 13, 2011

The U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on July 13, 2011 released the following press release:

“WASHINGTON – Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., Cinergy’s president and director, the president of Florida-based Telecom Consulting Services Corp. and two former Haitian government officials have been charged in a superseding indictment for their alleged roles in a foreign bribery, wire fraud and money laundering scheme, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, U.S. Attorney Wifredo A. Ferrer of the Southern District of Florida and Special Agent in Charge Jose A. Gonzalez of the Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation’s (IRS-CI) Miami Field Office.

According to the superseding indictment, the defendants allegedly participated in a scheme to commit foreign bribery and money laundering from December 2001 through January 2006. The indictment alleges that during this time period Cinergy and its related company, Uniplex Telecommunications Inc., allegedly paid more than $1.4 million to shell companies to be used for bribes to foreign officials of the Republic of Haiti’s state-owned national telecommunications company, Telecommunications D’Haiti (Haiti Teleco).

According to court documents, Cinergy and Uniplex executed a series of contracts with Haiti Teleco that allowed the companies’ customers to place telephone calls to Haiti. The bribe payments allegedly were authorized by Washington Vasconez Cruz, the telecommunications companies’ president, and Amadeus Richers, the companies’ director, and were allegedly paid to Haitian government officials at Haiti Teleco, including Patrick Joseph and Jean Rene Duperval. According to the superseding indictment, the purpose of these bribes was to obtain various business advantages from the Haitian officials for Cinergy and Uniplex, including preferred telecommunications rates and credits toward sums owed. To conceal the bribe payments, the defendants allegedly used various shell companies to receive and forward the payments, including J.D. Locator Services, Fourcand Enterprises and Telecom Consulting Services.

The six defendants charged in the superseding indictment are:

  • Washington Vasconez Cruz, 63, of Miami, the president of Cinergy and Uniplex, is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and to commit wire fraud, six counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering;
  • Amadeus Richers, 60, of Pembroke Pines, Fla., and Brazil, the then-director of Cinergy and Uniplex, is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, six counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering;
  • Cinergy Telecommunications Inc., a privately-held telecommunications company incorporated in Florida, is charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, six counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering;
  • Patrick Joseph, 49, of Miami and Haiti, a former general director for telecommunications at Haiti Teleco, is charged with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering;
  • Jean Rene Duperval, 44, of Miramar, Fla., and Haiti, a former director of international relations for telecommunications at Haiti Teleco, is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering; and
  • Marguerite Grandison, 42, of Miramar, the former president of Telecom Consulting Services Corp., and Duperval’s sister, is charged with two counts of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 19 counts of money laundering.

The superseding indictment also charges Duperval and Grandison with laundering corrupt payments authorized by Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez on behalf of another Florida telecommunications company.
Duperval was charged previously in the indictment returned on Dec. 7, 2009, with one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering. Grandison was previously charged with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and to commit wire fraud, seven counts of FCPA violations, one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering and 12 counts of money laundering.
Esquenazi and Rodriguez were charged in the initial December 2009 indictment and are unaffected by the superseding indictment. They are scheduled to stand trial on July 18, 2011.

An indictment is merely an accusation, and defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The conspiracy to commit violations of the FCPA and wire fraud count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The FCPA counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the value gained or lost. The conspiracy to commit money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The money laundering counts each carry a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison and a fine of the greater of $500,000 or twice the value of the property involved in the transaction. The superseding indictment also gives notice of criminal forfeiture.

On May 15, 2009, Juan Diaz, the president of J.D. Locator Services, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribe money from telecommunications companies. On July 30, 2010, he was sentenced to 57 months in prison.

On Feb. 19, 2010, Jean Fourcand, the president and director of Fourcand Enterprises Inc., pleaded guilty to one count of money laundering for receiving and transmitting bribe monies in the scheme. On May 5, 2010, he was sentenced to six months in prison.

On March 12, 2010, Robert Antoine, the former director of international affairs for Haiti Telco, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit money laundering. He admitted to receiving more than $1 million in bribes from Miami-based telecommunications companies. On June 2, 2010, he was sentenced to 48 months in prison.

The government’s investigation is ongoing. The Department of Justice is grateful to the government of Haiti for continuing to provide substantial assistance in gathering evidence during this investigation. In particular, Haiti’s financial intelligence unit, the Unité Centrale de Renseignements Financiers (UCREF), the Bureau des Affaires Financières et Economiques (BAFE), which is a specialized component of the Haitian National Police, and the Ministry of Justice and Public Security provided significant cooperation and coordination in this ongoing investigation.

The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorneys Nicola J. Mrazek and James M. Koukios of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, with the assistance of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida. The Office of International Affairs in the Justice Department’s Criminal Division also provided assistance in this matter. The cases were investigated by the IRS-CI Miami Field Office.”

To find additional federal criminal news, please read The Federal Crimes Watch Daily.

Douglas McNabb and other members of the U.S. law firm practice and write extensively on matters involving Federal Criminal Defense, INTERPOL Red Notice Removal, International Extradition and OFAC SDN List Removal.

The author of this blog is Douglas McNabb. Please feel free to contact him directly at mcnabb@mcnabbassociates.com or at one of the offices listed above.

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