On November 20, 2017, the Department of Justice, with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”), announced criminal charges for FCPA violations against the head of a non-governmental organization based in Hong Kong and Virginia and the former Foreign Minister of Senegal. The criminal complaint alleges the two individuals participated in a multimillion-dollar scheme to bribe “the highest levels of government” in Chad and Uganda in order to obtain business advantages for a Chinese oil and gas company. Some of the alleged bribes were disguised as charitable contributions.
According to the allegations in the complaint, the defendants engaged in two bribery schemes to pay high-level officials of Chad and Uganda in exchange for business advantages for the Shanghai-based energy conglomerate. They allegedly facilitated a $2 million bribe in exchange for valuable oil rights from the Chadian government. The complaint alleges that the former Foreign Minister of Senegal “played an instrumental role in the scheme” by, among other things, conveying the bribe offer to the President of Chad, for which he received $400,000 “via wires transmitted through New York.” The complaint also alleges a $500,000 bribe was paid, via wires transmitted through New York, to an account designated by the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Uganda, who had recently completed his term as the President of the UN General Assembly.
The Department’s announcement emphasized two facts that may have piqued the SDNY’s interest in the case and provided an important jurisdictional hook: (1) the defendants used the U.S. banking system to pay the alleged bribes, and (2) they had discussions in the halls of the United Nations in New York in furtherance of the alleged scheme. As the Department put it, the defendants “didn’t realize that using the U.S. banking system would be their undoing.”