This Week in Compliance

This Week in Compliance: Panasonic settles corruption charges

Here’s what’s been going on in the compliance world this week:

Business

  • Panasonic settles corruption charges: Panasonic Avionics Corp agreed to pay USD 280 million to settle criminal and civil charges that it falsified its books and records to conceal payments to sales agents in China and other parts of Asia. According to the DOJ, the practices involved senior company executives who had made corrupt payments through consultants in an effort to win business with airlines between 2007 and 2013. The payments were recorded on the company’s books as legitimate consulting services. Allegedly, the company also hired agents in Asia without proper due diligence. Despite that Panasonic had later on formally terminated the relationship, it ‘secretly continued to use the agents. The fine includes USD 137 million in criminal penalties and USD 143 million in disgorgement and interest to settle parallel civil charges with the SEC. The company agreed to continue cooperation, improve its compliance program and hire an independent monitor.

  • FIFA’s Brazilian federation chief banned over corruption: Following a graft investigation, FIFA banned the head of the Brazilian football federation Marco Polo Del Nero for life from all football-related activities on a national and international level after it was revealed that he had violated multiple articles of the FIFA’s ethics code including ones relating to bribery and corruption. Reportedly, Del Nero took bribes in exchange for abusing his position to award contracts to companies for the media and marketing rights to various football tournaments, including the CONMEBOL. Del Nero was also fined CHF 1 million. The ban is the latest development in the FIFA corruption investigations triggered by corruption revelations back in 2015.

Government

  • New corruption charges filed against Lula Da Silva: Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva – currently serving a 12-year prison sentence for a separate bribery conviction – along with the current leader of the Workers Party, Senator Gleisi Hoffmann, were hit with new corruption charges by federal prosecutors. Allegedly, Lula and Hoffmann were given access to a USD 40 million slush fund in 2010 funded by the construction giant Odebrecht in return for political favors to Odebrecht. Lula already faces six other trials on graft charges, while Hoffmann, as well as her husband Bernardo, are both facing a separate trial in the sweeping Lava Jato corruption probe.

  • Corruption charges filed against Brazilian minister of agriculture: Brazilian prosecutor General Raquel Dodge filed charges against the Minister of Agriculture Blairo Maggi at the Supreme Court on charges of orchestrating a bribery scheme while governor of Mato Grosso state back in 2009. The prosecutor accused Maggi of taking part in a scheme to pay USD 3.4 million in public funds to a judge on the Mato Grosso state audit court asking him to retire, so that a Mato Grosso state lawmaker, Sergio Ricardo de Almeida, could replace him, which he did. Almeida is also facing trial in connection with the case.

  • Honduras government official’s brother charged with money laundering in the US: A federal grand jury in New Orleans indicted the brother of a Honduras government official, Carlos Alberto Zelaya Rojas, for money laundering, as well as other crimes, including perjury, impeding an official proceeding, and impairing the court’s jurisdiction over property subject to forfeiture. Reportedly, Rojas had conspired with his brother, the former chief of the Honduran Institute of Social Security, and several others, to launder more than USD 1.3 million in bribes. The bribes were allegedly directed to Rojas’s brother and came from two Honduran businessmen. The money was laundered through the New Orleans area through international wire transfers and used to purchase real estate.

Noteworthy

  • Former president of PACE risks sanctions over Azerbaijan-linked corruption: The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) is to vote on whether current and former members, including its former president Pedro Agramunt, should face sanctions for corruption and breach of the PACE code of conduct. The vote is the fallout of a 10-month-long investigation into allegation revolving around Azerbaijan’s lobbying activities to silence criticism from the human rights body in exchange for gifts and bribes. Reportedly, Agramunt was involved in the corrupt lobbying activity and has allegedly accepted EUR 200,000 to assure his election as PACE president, as well as luxury gifts and prostitutes as bribes during an electoral mission to Azerbaijan in 2015. Agramunt denies the allegations.

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