Welcome to This Week In Compliance: GAN’s weekly news roundup, where we curate the latest stories on compliance and anti-corruption to keep you informed. This week we cover the corruption case filed against Belgium’s foreign minister. Read the full story and more news below:
Belgian Foreign Minister Faces Corruption Probe:
- The Belgian police has opened up a preliminary probe to investigate allegations of corruption and money laundering against Didier Reynders, the country’s foreign minister and nominee for next EU Justice Commissioner. The allegations are related to Reynders’ connection to a number of government deals including the construction of the Belgian embassy in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The accuser, who is a former Belgian secret agent, has also accused Reynders of laundering money through the sale of antiquities and art pieces at inflated prices. Reynders is also being investigated for acquiring real estate through suspicious transactions and for the alleged use of shell companies. The Foreign Minister has denied all allegations and dismissed them as part of a defamation campaign before the EU election. The investigators have stated that more radical measures will be taken once the initial probe is completed. READ MORE
World Bank announces three new debarments:
- This week, the World Bank announced the debarment of three companies located in India, China and Spain in three separate actions. The Indonesian water contractor Sujainco (PT Suburo Jayana Indah Corp.) was debarred for two years due to bid collusion and fraud in a World Bank funded water infrastructure project in Indonesia. Subsequently, in China, a state-owned construction company China Railway First Group Co. Ltd. (CRFG), was debarred for fraudulent practices related to a hydropower plant project in Pakistan for a period of two years. CRFG failed to disclose information on the subcontractors it used in the bidding for one of the contracts they won in 2015 for the World Bank-funded hydropower project. CRFG’s debarment disqualifies the company from participating in World Bank Group financed project bids for the next two years. Followingly, the Spanish company, Aqualia Intech S.A. (AISA), was debarred for one year for “fraudulent practices” in the design and construction of hydraulic infrastructure in Colombia. According to the allegations, AISA did not disclose full information during the bidding process of the awarded contract.
Former Cognizant COO resolves FCPA offenses:
- The former COO of New Jersey based Cognizant Technology Solutions Corporation has paid a penalty of USD 50,000 to settle FCPA violation charges. According to the indictment, Sridhar Thiruvengadam, helped bribe an Indian government official by covering up the payment. Reportedly, four Cognizant executives were also involved in approving the bribe and masking it into company bookkeeping records. The latest settlement comes after the company paid USD 25 million in the beginning of 2019 to resolve FCPA breaches in the company’s operations.
Disaster relief contractor accused of fraud in Puerto Rico:
- Donald Ellison, the former president of a disaster relief contractor, Cobra Acquisitions LLC, and two former officials of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) were detained for accusations of bribery and fraud during their involvement in the restoration of electricity in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. According to the allegations, the former president of Cobra Acquisitions –
a subsidiary of Mammoth Energy Services Inc.- exchanged a number of personal favors with FEMA officials including the personal use of a credit card, a helicopter, as well as inflated T&E expenses. In return, the two FEMA officials used their authority to secure contracts for the restoration of the country’s electrical system. The U.S. government is seeking to settle charges for wire fraud and disaster fraud which, if convicted, could put Ellison in prison for up to 30 years. Mammoth has released a statement stating its full cooperation with U.S. authorities in the investigation.
DR Congo – Ex Minister accused of embezzling ebola funds:
- The former Congolese Health Minister, Oly Ilunga, was taken into custody by the police for accusations of embezzling USD 4.3 million dollars which were originally meant for the mitigation of the Ebola epidemic in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). While the former minister has dismissed all allegations, his lawyers have stated that over USD 1.9 million of the sum were given to Ilunga as part of his resignation in 2016. His representatives have stated that the rest of the funds were employed in the eradication of the illness as stated in the accounts. The former minister’s resignation in 2016 occurred after the president decided to take the responsibility of the Ebola outbreak away from Ilunga. The DRC has been one of the largest Ebola breakout spots and has received substantial donations from the WHO and other donors.
Indonesia puts anti-corruption agency under supervisory board:
- The Indonesian parliament voted unanimously to reform the law governing the country’s domestic anti-corruption body. The Corruption Eradication Commission which has been fighting corruption through the prosecution of several high profile politicians has become one of the country’s most respected agencies according to public perceptions. The reforms, which would establish an external oversight board for the corruption commission, have alarmed local corruption activists as they fear the newly proposed body could weaken the agency’s independence. While protesters gathered outside the parliament in opposition to the resolution, the President has defended the changes as necessary for “good governance”.