This previous guest post highlighted Canada’s first individual conviction for a bribery offense under the Corruption of Foreign Public Officials Act (“CFPOA”), including the specific facts in the action against Nazir Karigar.
Given the general dearth of Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case law, you ought to have the urge to digest any form of judicial scrutiny of “FCPA-like” cases and the judicial opinion in the Nazir Karigar case makes for an interesting and worthwhile read.
For starters, the judge found that Air India officials were “foreign public officials” under the CFPOA.
This is hardly surprising.
Because the CFPOA, unlike the FCPA, defines the targeted recipient category, in pertinent part, as follows.
“a person who performs public duties or functions for a foreign state, including a person employed by a board, commission, corporation or other body or authority that is established to perform a duty or function on behalf of the foreign state, or is performing such a duty or function”
As noted in my “foreign official” declaration (which has been cited by the defense in the pending 11th Circuit “foreign official” appeal in the Joel Esquenazi and Carlos Rodriguez action), despite being aware of state-owned enterprises (SOEs) during the FCPA’s legislative process, despite exhibiting a capability for drafting a foreign official definition that expressly included SOEs in other bills, and despite being provided a more precise way to describe SOEs during the legislative process, Congress chose not to include such definitions or concepts in FCPA.
Back to the Karigar decision.
The first take-away point is that the bribery attempt was unsuccessful in that the contract at issue was never awarded. There have been FCPA enforcement actions consistent with this theory as well. (See, among other actions, the 2005 FCPA enforcement action against Monsanto – here and here).
A disputed legal issue in Karigar was whether the prosecution needed to prove that the actual bribes were paid and the specific identity of the foreign public officials allegedly bribed. Summarizing the argument of defense counsel, the opinion states:
“[I]n the submission of counsel for the accused, [counsel argues] that the court cannot know whether any foreign public official was actually offered or received a bribe or other inducement, whether any such official was induced to use his or her position to influence any act or decision and whether any such official had any duties or functions which could be influenced by any such inducement. In short, in the absence of any evidence that a bribe was actually offered or paid to any official, how can the Crown have proven the requisites of the offense charged beyond a reasonable doubt?”
The opinion then states:
“I agree that there was no evidence as to what became of the two payments … after the amounts were transferred from the bank account of Cryptometrics Inc. in New York to the accused’s account in India. It is correct so say that there was no evidence as to what subsequently became of those two sums of money and in particular whether these funds were offered or paid to anyone who qualified as a foreign public official under the Act.”
“The position of the Crown is that no evidence of what actually became of the money is necessary to establish a violation of the CFPOA. The Crown argues that incoate offenses, in particular a conspiracy to pay bribes, as exists here, constitutes a violation of the Act. [...]
“There would appear to be no jurisprudence interpreting the CFPOA. This is the first prosecution under this Act which has proceeded to trial.”
“In any event, I am satisfied that a conspiracy or agreement to bribe foreign public officials is a violation of the Act. The actus reus of this offense is the agreement to pursue an unlawful object. [...]
“I also reject the accused’s submission on a policy basis. In my opinion if the word ‘agrees’ in the Act is restricted to the act of essentially two parties, ‘one to pay the bribe and one to receive the bribe,’ the scope of the Act would be unduly restricted and its objectives defeated. Moreover, to require proof of the offer of or receipt of a bribe and the identity of a particular recipient would require evidence from a foreign jurisdiction, possibly putting foreign nationals at risk and would the legislation difficult if not impossible to enforce and possibly offend international comity.”
If the above sounds familiar to you, it should. Similar issues have been contested in recent FCPA enforcement actions.
In U.S. v. O’Shea, the DOJ alleged that the defendant violated the FCPA by making payments to officials at a Mexican utility allegedly owned or controlled by the Mexican government. The judge granted a motion for acquittal after the DOJ’s evidence. In doing so, and as relevant to the identity of a “foreign official” issue, the judge stated:
“You can’t convict a man promising to pay unless you have a particular promise to a particular person for a particular benefit. If you call up [somebody] and say, look, I’m going to send you 50 grand, bribe somebody, that does not meet the statute.”
However, the notion that the specific identity of a “foreign official” must be proven by the enforcement agencies has been rejected by two other trial courts in individual FCPA enforcement actions. In SEC v. Jackson, the court concluded, in ruling on a pre-trial motion to dismiss, that the “government does not have to connect the payment to a particular official.” The court stated:
“The language of the statute does not appear to require that the identity of the foreign official involved be pled with specificity. […] Nothing in the legislative history of the FCPA suggests that Congress intended to limit the application of [the FCPA] to those cases where the government could show that a defendant knew, either by name or job description, precisely which foreign officials would be receiving the illicit payments he had authorized. […] It would be perverse to read into the statute a requirement that a defendant know precisely which government official, or which level of government official, would be targeted by his agent; a defendant could simply avoid liability by ensuring that his agent never told him which official was being targeted and what precise action the official took in exchange for the bribe.”
Likewise in SEC v. Straub, the court agreed with the above Jackson decision in the context of a pre-trial motion to dismiss and stated that “the language of the [FCPA] does not appear to require that the identity of the foreign official involved be pled with specificity.” The court stated:
“Such a requirement would be at odds with the statutory scheme, which targets actions (such as making an ‘offer’ or ‘promise’) without requiring that the ‘foreign official’ accept the offer or reveal his specific identity to the payer. Indeed, the fact that the FCPA prohibits using ‘any person’ or an intermediary to facilitate the bribe to any ‘foreign official’ or ‘any foreign political party’ suggests that the statute contemplates situations in which the payer knows that a ‘foreign official’ will ultimately receive a bribe but only the intermediary knows the foreign official’s specific identity.”
Another interesting aspect of the Karigar is asking the obvious question – will there be a related FCPA enforcement action(s)?
Karigar was a paid agent for Cryptometrics Canada and acted on behalf of related entities including Cryptometrics USA. According to the opinion, $200,000, was transferred from Cryptometrics USA to Karigar’s bank account in furtherance of the bribery scheme. The opinion further references a relevant letter agreement between Kairgar and the CEO of Cryptometrics USA as well as specific conduct in furtherance of the bribery scheme that took place at Cryptometrics’s office in New York. In addition, the opinion references an additional $650,000 that was transferred from Crytometrics USA’s bank account in furtherance of the scheme.
Moreover, as noted in the opinion, Karigar corresponded with the DOJ regarding the conduct at issue. Specifically, the opinion states “that on August 13, 2007, Karigar – using an alias – “sent an e-mail to the Fraud Section (FCPA) of the U.S. Department of Justice stating that he had information about U.S. citizens paying bribes to foreign officers and inquired about reporting the matter.” The opinion also references two other e-mails Karigar sent to the DOJ.