150 undercover FBI agents used in the largest FCPA investigation ever

Twenty-two executives and military industry workers have been accused for engaging in schemes to bribe foreign government officials to obtain and retain business.

The charges stem from an FBI undercover operation.

The authorities allege that the defendants engaged in a scheme to pay bribes to the minister of defense for a country in Africa.

In fact, the scheme was part of the undercover operation, with no actual involvement from any minister of defense.

As part of the undercover operation, the defendants allegedly agreed to pay a 20 percent “commission” to a sales agent who the defendants believed represented the minister of defense in order to win a portion of a $15m deal to outfit the country’s presidential guard.

In reality, the “sales agent” was an undercover FBI agent.

The allegations are that the defendants conspired to violate the FCPA and conspired to engage in money laundering. The maximum sentence could see the defendants spend 20 years in prison.

It represents the largest single investigation and prosecution against individuals in the history of Department of Justice’s enforcement of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

The FCPA prohibits persons and companies acting in the US, from bribing foreign government officials for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business.

In connection with the investigation, around 150 FBI agents executed 14 search warrants in locations across the US.

In the UK, the City of London Police executed seven search warrants in connection with the same investigation.

“The fight to erase foreign bribery from the corporate playbook will not be won overnight, but these actions are a turning point. From now on, would-be FCPA violators should stop and ponder whether the person they are trying to bribe might really be a federal agent,” said Assistant Attorney General Lanny Breuer.

“Corrupt payments to foreign officials to obtain or retain business erode public confidence in our free market system and threaten to undermine foreign governments,” said US Attorney Channing Phillips. “These indictments set forth serious allegations and reflect the Department's commitment to aggressively investigate and prosecute those who try to advance their businesses through foreign bribery.”

“Companies should prosper through honest business practices, not the practice of back room deals and bribery,” added said Assistant Director Kevin Perkins of the FBI’s Criminal Investigative Division.