World News

Spanish parliament passes party corruption bill

Spanish parliament passes party corruption bill (photo: AFP)Spain's lower house of parliament on Jan. 21 approved a bill aimed at tightening political party accounting rules as part of measures to fight corruption, seen as a key concern among voters.

The bill, which must still be approved by the Senate, adds the crime of illegal financing of political parties to the penal code.

Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy's conservative Popular Party has a majority in the Senate and the bill is virtually assured to pass.

Under the bill anonymous donations to political parties above 50,000 euros ($58,000) are banned.

The law also calls for fines equivalent to three to four times the amount of money that was illegally donated.

If the donations surpass 500,000 euros -- or just 100,000 euros if the money came from a foreign body -- jail terms ranging from six months to four years could apply.

The bill also stiffens penalties for public workers found guilty of fraud or influence peddling.

The main opposition Socialist Party said the reform was "completely insufficient" since those who donate less than 500,000 euros will not go to jail.

It points out that in the so-called "Gurtel" case, a massive bribes-for-contracts scheme that allegedly existed at the heart of the Popular Party, none of the accused donated more than 500,000 euros.

High Court judge Pablo Ruz said in November that he had completed the "backbone" of his probe into the affair and had evidence to try 43 people for corruption.

The case is one of a series of high-profile corruption scandals involving politicians of all political stripes, businesses, football clubs and even the king's sister. Hundreds of people have been charged and are awaiting trial.

With the country set to hold a general election at the end of the year, polls show corruption and unemployment top Spaniards' list of concerns.

Anger over graft, as well as frustrations over a jobless rate of 24 percent, have shaken up the two-party system that has dominated since Spain emerged from dictatorship in the 1970s.

Podemos, a fast-growing far-left party set up last year, has made the fight against corruption a priority and tops polls of voting intentions.

Yahoo! News        January 21, 2015

SEC charges PBSJ and former exec for Qatar bribes

SEC charges PBSJ and former exec for Qatar bribes (photo: PBSJ)Tampa, Florida-based engineering and construction firm PBSJ Corporation agreed Jan. 22 to pay $3.4 million for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by paying bribes and employing foreign officials to win Qatari government contracts.

PBSJ is now known as Atkins North America Holdings Corporation and no longer offers public stock in the U.S.

UK-based Atkins acquired PBSJ in 2010. The group has 17,000 employees world wide.

The SEC charged Walid Hatoum, a former international marketing director for PBSJ, with violating the FCPA's anti-bribery, internal accounting controls, and books and records provisions, and with false records offenses.

Without admitting or denying the findings, Hatoum agreed to pay a penalty of $50,000.

The SEC didn't go to court. It entered an administrative order against Hatoum. And it used a deferred prosecution agreement to resolve PBSJ's offenses. The DPA has a two-year term.

Kara Brockmeyer, chief of the SEC's FCPA unit, said: “Hatoum offered and authorized nearly $1.4 million in bribes disguised as ‘agency fees’ intended for a foreign official who used an alias to communicate confidential information that assisted PBSJ.”

The foreign official gave Hatoum and PBSJ’s international subsidiary access to "confidential sealed-bid and pricing information," the SEC said. The information helped the PBSJ subsidiary win bids in 2009 for a hotel resort development in Morocco and a light rail transit project in Qatar.

Brockmeyer said PBSJ ignored "multiple red flags that should have enabled other officers and employees to uncover the bribery scheme at an earlier stage."

Once PBSL discovered the offenses, Brokmeyer said, it self-reported them and "cooperated substantially.”

The SEC also alleged that Hatoum offered a job to a second foreign official in return for help after PBSJ lost the Morocco hotel project.

In the deferred prosecution agreement, PBSJ agreed to disgorge $2.8 million with interest of $140,000, and pay a penalty of $375,000.

"Even though the bribes themselves were not consummated before the scheme was uncovered by the company, PBSJ earned approximately $2.9 million in illicit profits because it continued work on the [Qatar] light rail project until a replacement company could be found," the SEC said.

The SEC said: "PBSJ took quick steps to end the misconduct after self-reporting to the SEC, and the company voluntarily made witnesses available for interviews and provided factual chronologies, timelines, internal summaries, and full forensic images to cooperate with the SEC’s investigation."

PBSJ's deferred prosecution is here (pdf) and the SEC's administrative order against Walid Hatoum is here.

The FCPA Blog        January 22, 2015

Chinese official offered 40 million yuan bribe to boss in attempt to escape corruption charges

Chinese official offered 40 million yuan bribe to boss in attempt to escape corruption charges (photo: BBC)A Chinese official offered bribes of more than 40 million yuan (about HK$50 million) to his boss in a last-ditch attempt to save himself after being charged with corruption.

Former lieutenant general Gu Junshan, who was deputy head of the People’s Liberation Army General Logistics Department, confessed – and reportedly implicated former general Xu Caihou – when he realised Xu could not save him from charges of embezzlement, bribery, misuse of state funds and abuse of power.

Gu, who was sacked after being detained in 2012, admitted offering bribes to Xu, who retired last year as vice-chairman of the powerful Central Military Commission last year. Xu is now being investigated on suspicion of corruption.

Details of Gu’s attempts to escape justice – and subsequent confession that implicated Xu – were revealed in an article by Honesty Outlook, a Sichuan provincial magazine that focuses on anti-corruption.

The magazine’s report examined the last-ditch efforts of officials to avoid prosecution after being investigated on suspicion of corruption.

The officials’ efforts include not only offering bribes, but also include making threats to others, seeking help from influential contacts, making claims of their innocence, or implicating other people in an attempt to gain a more lenient punishment.

Inspection teams often received anonymous threatening phone calls or letters, the magazine reported.

Some inspectors were told to told “go away and have some fun, otherwise you will meet an unfortunate ending”.

One village party secretary and his brother had a whistleblower killed after he reported had them of corruption and identified himself to senior officials using his real name.
Another official at the Qidong county bureau of commerce and industry threatened to “throw all the disciplinary investigators out of the window” after growing angry when they examined his bank accounts.

A corrupt official, who was suffering from cancer, threatened to commit suicide if he was investigated. He was eventually put under party internal disciplinary investigation.
A more discrete way used by corrupt officials is to try to bribe investigators carrying out the corruption inquiry.

Wei Jian, a director with the anti-graft watchdog, the Central Committee of Discipline Investigation, is believed to have tipped off corrupt officials in the provinces for which he was responsible.

He was detained and placed under investigation last May on suspicion of corruption.

Hu Zhizhong, former chief procurator of Zhongyuan district People’s Procuratorate, in Zhengzhou, also reportedly bribed staff investigating his case so he could collude with other people involved in the case.

The magazine reported that the most common tactic used by officials detained on suspicion of corruption was to form an alliance with other people involved the investigation.
The tactic had been used by Gao Jianyun, a former official with the Communist Party body set up to make the internet more secure. Gao, who worked at the Office of the Central Leading Group for Cyberspace Affairs, was sacked after being detained by investigators last September.

Xu Jianlong, former head of the Hancheng Land and Natural Resources Bureau, in Anhui province, also tried to form alliances with other people involved in his case.

NewHub       January 23, 2015

Leading New York politician arrested on bribery charges

Sheldon Silver (photo: The New York Times )New York and its Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo start this year's legislative session facing the latest taint on its already tarnished reputation for government ethics with the arrest of Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, who bent state government to his will for more than 20 years as one of the state's most powerful and canny politicians.

The 70-year-old Democrat was taken into custody Thursday by the FBI on federal charges that he took nearly $4 million in payoffs and kickbacks, crimes that carry up to 100 years in prison and could cost him his political seat. He was released on $200,000 bail.

Cuomo lamented the added "negativity" associated with state government as good government groups renewed calls for him to do more and critics accused him of flagging on past anti-corruption initiatives.

U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said Silver, a lawyer by training, lined up jobs at two firms and then accepted large sums of money over more than a decade in exchange for using his "titanic" power to do political favors. The money was disguised as "referral fees," Bharara said.

Silver, who seemed unfazed in court, did not enter a plea.

"I'm confident that after a full hearing and due process I'll be vindicated on the charges," said Silver, who even paused on his way out of court to sign a sketch artist's rendering of the scene.

The arrest sent shock waves through New York's Capitol and came just a day after Silver shared the stage with Cuomo during his State of the State address, as Cuomo joked that he, Silver and the Senate majority leader were the "three amigos" of state government.

At a meeting Thursday with the Daily News editorial board, Cuomo said of Silver's arrest: "Obviously it's bad for the speaker, but it's also a bad reflection on government, and it adds to the negativity."

Silver is one of Albany's most storied political figures, a consummate backroom operator with the power to single-handedly decide the fate of legislation.

Along with the Senate majority leader and the governor, he plays a major role in creating state budgets, laws and policies in a system long criticized in Albany as "three men in a room." He controls, for example, which lawmakers sit on which committees and decides whether a bill gets a vote.

In a measure of his clout, he helped persuade Cuomo last spring to disband a state anti-corruption commission that was investigating Silver's financial dealings and those of his colleagues.

Despite his outsized influence, he is pretty much an unknown outside New York state. Even in Albany, he is one of the most private and least-understood figures, sometimes called "the Sphinx."

Silver's wealth has long been a subject of discussion and controversy. But Bharara said New Yorkers could stop wondering.

"Speaker Silver never did any legal work," the federal prosecutor said. "He simply sat back and collected millions of dollars by cashing in on his public office and political influence."

Silver is the sixth New York legislative leader to face prosecution in the past six years.

Bharara said the charges against Silver make clear that "the show-me-the-money culture of Albany has been perpetuated and promoted at the very top of the political food chain."

Assembly Majority Leader Joe Morelle said Silver still has the backing of an overwhelming number of the chamber's Democrats and they are not seeking his resignation as speaker.

"We believe he can carry out his duties as speaker," Morelle said. "We're going to stand with him. ... We have faith in the speaker."

At one law firm specializing in personal injury and asbestos removal, Weitz & Luxenberg, Silver collected millions of dollars in so-called referral fees for lining up state grants for a doctor's research, according to prosecutors.

At a firm specializing in real estate tax law, Silver received big fees for using his political clout to steer powerful developers to the firm as clients, authorities said.

A graduate of Brooklyn Law School, Silver was first elected to the Assembly in 1976, representing a district on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where he was born and still lives.

Silver has gone toe-to-toe with five New York governors - from Mario Cuomo to his son Andrew Cuomo - since early 1994, when he was selected speaker.

He has championed liberal causes in the Legislature, using his position as a powerbroker to support teachers, trial lawyers and civil service unions.

abc 9 KTRE         January 22, 2015

Ukraine’s State Fiscal Service investigators caught with UAH 250,000 bribe

Ukraine’s State Fiscal Service investigators caught with UAH 250,000 bribe (photo:

The Ukrainian Prosecutor General’s Office exposed investigators from the State Fiscal Service with receiving a bribe of UAH 250,000, the Ukrainian daily media, Ukrainskaya Pravda, wrote on Jan. 14, citing the press service of the Prosecutor General’s Office.

“Prosecutor General’s Office investigators, together with the Security Service of Ukraine, exposed two investigators from the Investigation Department of the State Fiscal Service in Kiev,” Ukrainskaya Pravda reported. “These officers, acting in a preliminary agreement with a civilian, demanded an improper benefit in the amount of UAH 250,000 for the closure of a criminal proceeding.”

The money was confiscated. Currently, the complex of legal proceedings aimed at establishing the facts of the criminal offense is being held.

If proven guilty, the suspects face between five and 10 years imprisonment and are forbidden to engage in certain activities for the term of three years complemented by the confiscation of property, according to the daily.

CEE Insight            January 15, 2015

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 589