Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer
Releases resource guide to foreign corrupt practice act
By Tokunbo Adedoja in Abuja
The United States has stepped up efforts to fight corruption in all countries around the globe, including Nigeria.
As part of the efforts, Washington has released a 120-page resource guide to its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), which was enacted to make it unlawful for classes of persons and entities to make payments to foreign government officials to assist in obtaining or retaining business.
Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division, Lanny Breuer, who announced this on Friday at the American Conference Institute’s 28th National Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act at National Harbor, Maryland, said: “Because corruption – at home and abroad – has such corrosive effects, I have pledged to use every tool at our disposal to fight it.”
He said his message in all the countries he had visited had been that “combating corruption around the world is, and will remain a priority of the United States”.
“This message resonates in every country, because everyone – from the fruit stand owner in Tunisia, to the oil rig worker in Nigeria, to the punk rock musician in Russia – knows how pernicious corruption can be; and we in the United States are in a unique position to spread the gospel of anti-corruption because there is no country that enforces its anti-bribery laws more vigorously than we do,” he added.
According to him, in addition to FCPA prosecution, US recently had its first Kleptocracy Initiative successes, which involved two former Nigerian governors.
Breuer said: “In June, we successfully forfeited over $400,000 belonging to a corrupt former governor of a Nigerian oil-producing state; and since July we have secured restraining orders against more than $7 million in proceeds related to a different governor of another oil-producing state in Nigeria, including the proceeds from the sale of a penthouse unit in the Ritz-Carlton in Washington, DC.”
Explaining that these were challenging and extremely meaningful cases, Breuer said the essence of the efforts is to ensure that corrupt leaders are not allowed to use the US as a safe haven for their ill-gotten gains.
He stated that if the US could not pursue a suspected corrupt foreigner in its territory because of lack of criminal jurisdiction, it would go after the suspect’s assets.
Noting that this was an important and developing era of foreign bribery enforcement, he said countries across the globe were passing new anti-bribery legislations or revising outdated laws, while more are joining international bodies such as the OECD Working Group on Bribery.
He said the US was cooperating with foreign law enforcement on FCPA cases more closely than ever before.
Speaking further, Breuer said corruption undermines the public trust and weakens democratic institutions, as well as creates gaps in government structures that organised criminal groups and terrorist networks could exploit.
“In short, corruption is a ‘gateway crime’ that we must do everything we can, working with others around the globe, to stamp out.
“Nothing is more important than curbing corruption around the world – and we must, and we will, continue to do everything we can to ensure that young people across the globe can dream big dreams without having to worry that a corrupt leader will extinguish them,” he added.
He said since 2009, the number of prosecutors devoted to working on FCPA cases had doubled, while US had also launched the Kleptocracy Asset Recovery Initiative, through which assets of corrupt leaders around the world are seized and forfeited.
He said the department was “focused on bribes of consequence – ones that have a fundamentally corrosive effect on the way companies do business abroad”.
On the most significant success of the efforts of the department, Breuer said: “Our record of success has meant that corporate executives now actually believe – for good reason – that if they participate in a scheme to improperly influence a foreign official, they face the very real prospect of going to prison. That may be our single most important achievement.”
On the resource guide to the FCPA, which was released last Wednesday, he said the guidelines would help companies doing business internationally to get it right by ensuring that they comply with the FCPA or else they may face Justice Department prosecutors and SEC enforcement lawyers.
Under the FCPA, Washington had in the past secured several convictions, and imposed huge penalties on individuals and companies for their participation in a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials to obtain engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contracts.
The contracts, valued at more than $6 billion, covered a four-company joint venture to build liquefied natural gas (LNG) facilities on Bonny Island, Nigeria between 1995 and 2004.