This Week in Compliance

This Week in Compliance: SEC closes FCPA investigation into Cobalt

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

Business

  • SEC closes FCPA investigation into Cobalt: The SEC has closed its FCPA investigation into Cobalt International Energy’s Angola operations, as reported by Cobalt in a securities filing last Tuesday (30 January), adding that the SEC won’t bring an enforcement action against the company. The inquiry was related to Cobalt’s funding the Sonangol Research and Technology Center under an agreement with Angola’s state-owned oil and gas company Sonangol Research. This was not Cobalt’s only FCPA case in which the SEC declined to prosecute; the DOJ and SEC had conducted an investigation in late 2011 into allegations that Angolan officials held an interest in one of Cobalt’s partners until 2014 in two offshore blocks in Angolan waters. The first investigation also ended with declinations.
  • Paradise Papers businessmen investigated by US authorities for bribery: Dan Gertler, a billionaire businessman and close friend and adviser to the president of the Democratic Republic of Congo, is a key target of a DOJ inquiry into the alleged bribery of high ranking officials in the DRC. US authorities claim that Gertler bribed high-ranking foreign officials with cash, gifts and travel, in return for securing mining rights and government concessions among other. Gertler, who has made a fortune from diamond and mining businesses, was featured in the Paradise Papers which revealed new information about his dealings in the DRC. The recently published court ruling does not name Gertler, nor the company on behalf of which he was allegedly paying the bribes. Yet, Swiss judges have reportedly agreed to grant three US judicial assistance requests for evidence in the case in relation to Gertler. The partner for whose benefit Gertler is accused of paying bribes is described as a US hedge fund believed to be Och-Ziff. Och-Ziff has previously paid USD 213 million to US authorities to settle criminal charges relating to the bribery in the DRC.
  • New guilty plea in Fat Leonard case: Troy Amundson, a former U.S. Navy commander pleaded guilty to federal bribery and conspiracy charges in connection with the Fat Leonard case. Amundson admitted to colluding with foreign defense contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, operator of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), and others to receive illicit perks in return for taking official action to benefit GDMA. Francis admitted to masterminding a large fraudulent scheme involving scores of U.S. Navy officials, USD tens of millions in fraud and millions of dollars in bribes and gifts. More than two dozen people, most of whom are military personnel, are facing serious criminal charges and prison terms in connection with the case. Amundson will face sentencing next April.

Government

  • Saudi anti-corruption crackdown yield USD 106 billion in settlements: The Saudi Arabia government has made more than USD 106 billion from the settlements reached with officials, businessmen, princes and ministers detained in the country’s sweeping anti-corruption campaign launched last November. The crackdown involved 381 people, 56 of which have been called in for questioning, while the rest were cleared or admitted guilt and handed over properties, cash, securities and other assets. The billionaire investor Prince Alwaleed bin Talal and businessman and chairman of Middle East Broadcasting Center Alwalid al-Ibrahim were recently released from detention after agreeing to financial settlements after admitting unspecified “violations”. The son of the late King Abdullah, Prince Miteb bin Abdullah, has allegedly also handed over more than USD 1 billion in assets, while state minister Ibrahim al-Assaf was cleared of any wrongdoing.
  • Opposition petitions to remove the president of the Maldives: The leaders of the Maldives’ opposition have petitioned the Supreme Court to temporarily remove President Abdulla Yameen from office to investigate allegations of corruption against him. The opposition claims that Yameen has diverted public funds and properties for his personal and his family’s benefit and that of political associates. The President rejected the allegations and dismissed the petition as an attempt by the opposition to ‘overthrow a legitimate government’. A 2016 expose by Al Jazeera shed the light on how President Yameen and his former deputy coordinated the diversion of USD millions in tourism revenues. Three of the former vice president’s associates confessed in secret recordings how they had carried cash to the president. Some of the claims of the men were also confirmed by the island’s anti-graft watchdog last year. Reportedly, Supreme Court judges have not yet commented on whether they would hear the petition.

Noteworthy

  • Three men arrested over the attack on Egypt’s former anti-graft watchdog chief: Egypt’s public prosecutor has ordered the detention of three men pending an investigation into an attack with knives and sticks on Hisham Genena, the former anti-corruption watchdog chief, as the later left his home on Saturday morning in a suburb outside Cairo. Genena was transferred to the hospital with a bleeding eye and several fractures. The victim’s lawyer and family have described the attack as a failed kidnapping attempt. Genena had been working to elect former military Chief-of-Staff Lieutenant General Sami Anan, whose campaign was abruptly halted after he was arrested and accused of running for office without military permission. According to the latest polls, Anan is perceived as a potential threat to the re-election of President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.
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