Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrest Of French Citizen For Obstructing Foreign Bribery And Money Laundering Investigation
Preet Bharara, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Mythili Raman, the Acting Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division, and George Venizelos, the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), announced the arrest today of FREDERIC CILINS, a French citizen, for obstructing a grand jury investigation concerning alleged bribes paid for certain mining rights in the Republic of Guinea. CILINS was arrested yesterday in Jacksonville, Florida, and was presented in federal court in Jacksonville this afternoon. He was detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for April 18, 2013.
Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara stated: “A grand jury can never learn the truth, and justice cannot prevail, where documents are intentionally destroyed and testimony is tainted by lies. As alleged, Frederic Cilins attempted to obstruct a significant investigation by corrupting evidence and testimony in precisely those ways. With today’s arrest, Mr. Cilins now must answer to the system he allegedly tried to obstruct.”
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said: “The Department of Justice considers efforts to obstruct grand jury and FBI investigations to be a serious threat to the due administration of justice. The Department will actively prosecute those found to be subverting our efforts to fight corruption.”
FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge George Venizelos: “As alleged, Cilins attempted to buy evidence he sought to destroy. The destruction of evidence was in furtherance of Cilins’s effort to obstruct an investigation into a bribery scheme. In effect, he was willing to commit bribery in an effort to cover up a bribery.”
According to the allegations in the Complaint filed today in Manhattan federal court:
Since January 2013, a federal grand jury sitting in the Southern District of New York has been conducting a criminal investigation into potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and money laundering related to a scheme in which a particular mining company (“Entity”) allegedly paid bribes to officials of a former governmental regime of the Republic of Guinea to win valuable mining concessions in the Simandou region of Guinea. The investigation is focused on, among other things, at least one individual who is a “domestic concern” within the meaning of the FCPA and also concerns certain proceeds that were wired to or through the Southern District of New York.
CILINS is a French citizen who has identified himself as a representative of the Entity. From at least March 2013 to the present, CILINS has repeatedly attempted to obstruct the grand jury investigation in conversations and meetings he has had with a cooperating witness (“CW”), the former wife of a now deceased high-ranking official in Guinea. Among other things, CILINS offered to pay the CW as much as $5 million if, in exchange, the CW would: provide, certain documents that CILINS knew had been requested from the CW by special agents of the FBI so that he could destroy them; and sign an affidavit containing numerous false statements regarding matters within the scope of the grand jury investigation. The documents that CILINS sought to destroy included original copies of contracts between the Entity and its affiliates and the CW, whose husband then held an office in Guinea that allowed him to influence the award of mining concessions. These contracts reflect an alleged corrupt deal in which the Entity offered to pay the CW’s company millions of dollars, among other benefits, with the understanding that, in exchange for these payments, the CW’s husband would undertake official action to help the Entity with respect to certain valuable mining concessions the Entity sought in the Simandou Region in Guinea.
In at least one meeting with the CW, which was recorded, when CILINS learned that a U.S. grand jury was investigating the Entity’s conduct, CILINS repeatedly said that the documents in the CW’s possession needed to be destroyed “urgently.” CILINS offered to pay the CW $200,000 and another $800,000 at a later date. Further, if the case was completed, and the Entity did not lose its business in Guinea, CILINS offered to pay the CW $5 million.
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CILINS, 50, is a resident of France. He is charged with one count of witness tampering, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison; one count of destroying, altering, or falsifying records in a federal investigation, which carries a maximum term of 20 years in prison; and one count of obstructing a criminal investigation, which carries a maximum term of five years in prison.
Mr. Bharara praised the outstanding efforts of FBI in the investigation, which he noted is ongoing. He also thanked the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs and Office of Enforcement Operations for their assistance in the investigation.
This case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds Unit. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elisha J. Kobre and Stephen Spiegelhalter of the Fraud Section of the Criminal Division are in charge of the prosecution.
Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.
The charges and allegations contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.