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French Citizen Pleads Guilty to Obstructing Criminal Investigation into Foreign Bribery Charges

Wednesday, March 12, 2014
Sandler, Travis & Rosenberg Trade Report

The Department of Justice announced March 10 that a French citizen has agreed to plead guilty in a New York court to obstructing a federal criminal investigation into whether a mining company paid bribes to win lucrative mining rights in the Republic of Guinea. The U.S. government alleges that the French citizen attempted to obstruct an ongoing federal grand jury investigation concerning potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and laws proscribing money laundering. Justice indicates that during monitored and recorded phone calls and face-to-face meetings the French citizen allegedly agreed to pay substantial sums of money to induce a witness to the bribery scheme to turn over documents for destruction, which he knew had been requested by the FBI and needed to be produced before a federal grand jury. Court documents also allege, among other things, that the French citizen sought to induce the witness to sign an affidavit containing numerous false statements regarding matters under investigation by the grand jury.

The foreign bribery charges relate to a scheme by which a mining company and its affiliates offered the wife of a Guinean official millions of dollars, which were to be distributed to the official’s wife as well as ministers or senior officials of Guinea’s government whose authority might be needed to secure the mining rights. According to court documents, the official’s wife incorporated a company in 2008 that agreed to take all necessary steps to secure the valuable mining rights for the mining company’s subsidiary.  That same contract stipulated that $2 million was to be transferred to the official’s wife’s company and an additional sum was to be “distributed among persons of good will who may have contributed to facilitating the granting of” the valuable mining rights. According to the complaint, in 2008 the mining company and its affiliates also agreed to give five percent of their ownership of particular mining areas in Guinea to the official’s wife.

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