On March 23, former Bechtel Corp. executive Asem Elgawhary was sentenced to 42 months in prison and ordered to forfeit $5.2 million for accepting kickbacks in connection with a scheme to manipulate the bidding process for power contracts in Egypt. Elgawhary, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Egypt, pleaded guilty in December to violations of the mail fraud, conspiracy, and tax laws in federal court in Maryland. As the general manager of a joint venture between Bechtel and Egypt’s state-owned oil company, Elgawhary accepted payments from three power companies in return for favorable treatment in the contract bidding process. One of those companies was Alstom, S.A., which last December pleaded guilty to a number of FCPA violations, including paying bribes to Elgawhary.
As the recipient of the bribes, Elgawhary was not charged under the FCPA, but the DOJ nevertheless pursued numerous criminal charges against him, continuing its trend of attempting to address the demand side of foreign corruption as well as the supply side. Elgawhary’s case also illustrates the risks inherent in entering into certain business relationships with state-owned or controlled entities; in the Alstom plea papers, Elgawhary, an executive of a U.S. company, was explicitly characterized as an “Egyptian official.”