Archive for the ‘U.S. v. Castle’ Category

A “Foreign Official” Fights Back

Thursday, August 25th, 2011

The Foreign Corrupt Practices Act addresses the payment of bribes, not the receipt of bribes.

For instance, in U.S. v. Castle, 925 F.2d 831 (5th Cir. 1991), the court was called upon to consider whether “foreign officials” who are excluded from prosecution under the FCPA itself, could nevertheless be prosecuted under the general conspiracy statute (18 USC 371) for conspiring to violate the FCPA.  The court held that “foreign officials”  could not be prosecuted for conspiring to violate the FCPA and adopted the rationale set forth in the trial court opinion (see 741 F.Supp. 116).   That rationale was that Congress, in passing the FCPA, only chose to punish one party to the bribe agreement and the DOJ could not therefore  ”override the Congressional intent not to prosecute foreign officials for their participation in the prohibited acts” through use of the conspiracy statute.  The trial court stated as follows.  “The drafters of the [FCPA] knew that they could, consistently with international law, reach foreign officials in certain circumstances. But they were equally well aware of, and actively considered, the ‘inherent jurisdictional, enforcement, and diplomatic difficulties’ raised by the application of the bill to non-citizens of the United States.”  The trial court observed that prosecution and punishment of “foreign officials” (in the Castle case alleged Canadian “foreign officials”) ”will be accomplished by the government which most directly suffered the abuses allegedly perpetrated by its own officials, and there is no need to contravene Congress’ desire to avoid such prosecutions by the United States.”  For those of you scoring at home, Castle represents a DOJ loss in a contested FCPA matter.

In recent years, however, the DOJ has used other laws in an attempt to reach “foreign officials.”  This trend has been profiled here and here.  For instance, in January 2010, in connection with the Gerald and Patricia Green FCPA enforcement action, a criminal indictment was unsealed against Juthamas Siriwan and Jittisopa Siriwan.  According to the indictment, Juthamas “was the senior government officer of the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)” and she is the “foreign official” the Greens were convicted of bribing.  Jittisopa is the daughter of the “foreign official” and also alleged to be an “employee of Thailand Privilege Card Co. Ltd.” an entity controlled by TAT and an alleged “instrumentality of the Thai government.”  The charges against the Siriwans were not FCPA charges, but largely conspiracy to money launder and “transporting funds to promote unlawful activity.”

As detailed in this Wall Street Journal Corruption Currents story by Joe Palazzolo, the Siriwans are fighting back.  On behalf of the Siriwans, lawyers at Kelley Drye & Warren LLP recently field this motion to dismiss to the indictment.

In summary, the Siriwans state as follows.  “This is the first judicial challenge to a novel prosecutorial approach the Government recently developed to charge foreign officials allegedly involved in corruption.  That approach is aimed at overcoming a fundamental FCPA limitation.  The FCPA does not criminalize a foreign public official’s receipt of a bribe.  Nor can the Government employ an FCPA conspiracy charge against a foreign public official.  Accordingly, these new enforcement initiatives require expansive interpretations [of] “promotion money laundering” [under the Money Laundering Control Act].”  The Siriwans state as follows.  “Congress has extensively amended the FCPA, yet it deliberately has not extended FCPA liability to foreign officials.  If the Government wishes to extend U.S. criminal penalties to foreign officials accepting a bribe, it must go back to Congress, rather than employ dubious charging tactics to evade the direct and repeated congressional choice not to apply FCPA criminal liability to such officials.”

As noted in Palazzolo’s article, the DOJ has yet to respond to Siriwans’ motion and U.S. District Judge George Wu (C.D. of California) has scheduled a hearing on the motion for October 20th.

In a development that goes straight to a point raised by the Castle court, Thailand’s National Counter-Corruption Commission (NCCC) has reportedly found sufficient grounds to believe that Juthamas Siriwan received money from the Greens and that Jittisopa Siriwan was an accomplice in the bribery case.  The NCCC has reportedly forwarded its conclusion to the Thai Attorney-General for legal action against the Siriwans.  For more, see here from the Bangkok Post.

The Siriwan’s challenge is the latest in “this year of FCPA judicial scrutiny.”  Previously this year, there was the first judicial challenge to the DOJ’s “foreign official” interpretation that made extensive use of the FCPA’s legislative history (see here); the first dd-3 judicial challenge (see here); the first victim petition under the FCPA (see here); and the first Travel Act judicial challenge (see here).

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In a related development (see here), the DOJ has dropped its appeal of Gerald and Patricia Green’s sentence.  As detailed in this prior post, in September 2009, Gerald and Patricia Green were found guilty by a federal jury of substantive FCPA violations, conspiracy to violate the FCPA, and other charges.  After several sentencing delays, in August 2010 (see here), Judge Wu rejected the DOJ’s 10 year sentencing request for both Gerald and Patricia Green and sentenced the Greens to six months in prison, followed by three years probation.  In its sentencing brief, the DOJ urged the court to “disregard defendants’ efforts to obscure the landscape of FCPA sentencing, which generally reflects significant prison terms for convicted individuals.”  I asked at the time whether the “landscape of FCPA sentencing” truly reflected “significant prison terms” as stated by the DOJ – a statement even more true now (see the FCPA Sentences tab under the Search page).

I was surprised to learn that the DOJ was appealing the Green sentences and I am thus not surprised to learn that the DOJ has dropped its appeal.  In short, do you think the DOJ wants anything FCPA related before the 9th Circuit?