Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicole M. Argentieri Delivers Keynote Address at the 40th International Conference on the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act
An indictment returned by a federal grand jury in Washington, D.C. was unsealed on May 20, 2021, charging the Republic of Chad’s former Ambassador to the United States and Canada and Chad’s former Deputy Chief of Mission for the United States and Canada with soliciting and accepting a $2 million bribe from a Canadian start-up energy company, and conspiring to launder the bribe payment in order to conceal its true nature.
According to court documents, Mahamoud Adam Bechir and Youssouf Hamid Takane engaged in this scheme between August 2009 and July 2014, while serving as diplomats based out of the Embassy of Chad located in Washington, D.C. According to the indictment, Bechir and Takane demanded the bribe from the Canadian start-up energy company in exchange for a promise to misuse their official positions and their influence with the government of Chad to assist the start-up energy company in obtaining oil rights in Chad. Naeem Tyab, a citizen of Canada and founding shareholder of the start-up energy company, who served as a director of the company from 2009 through 2011, is also charged in the indictment for allegedly arranging for the bribe to be paid to Bechir’s wife, co-defendant Nouracham Bechir Niam, via a sham contract for consulting services that she never actually provided. In addition to the $2 million bribe payment, the start-up energy company also issued shares in the company to Niam, to Takane’s wife, and to a third Chadian individual, as part of the bribe, according to the indictment.
“These defendants allegedly engaged in a multimillion dollar bribery scheme while in the United States and then used the U.S. financial system to launder the bribes to conceal their conduct,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Nicholas L. McQuaid of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division. “The charges unsealed today demonstrate the department’s determined commitment to investigate and prosecute corruption wherever it occurs and the officials who use our financial system to launder their bribes. Corruption undermines trust in governments and prevents the free market from functioning fairly for law-abiding people and companies.”
“The bribery and corruption of foreign officials causes grave harm to both the global economy and the interests of the United States,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Channing D. Phillips of the District of Columbia. “My office and the Justice Department are committed to prosecuting these violations and efforts to launder the proceeds of these crimes.”
“Accepting and soliciting bribes seriously threatens the integrity of our economic system,” said Assistant Director in Charge Steven M. D’Antuono of the FBI’s Washington Field Office. “When corrupt foreign officials launder funds through the United States in furtherance of their criminal activity, the FBI will work tirelessly to hold those officials accountable and send a message that we will not relent in our efforts to uphold the law.”
All four defendants are charged with conspiracy to commit money laundering, and Bechir, Takane, and Niam are also charged with money laundering, each of which carries a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison. Niam and Tyab are also charged with conspiracy to violate the FCPA, which carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison. The indictment in this case was returned by the grand jury in February 2019. Tyab was arrested in the Southern District of New York on Feb. 9, 2019, and subsequently, on April 30, 2019, he entered a guilty plea to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. As part of his guilty plea, Tyab agreed to forfeit criminal proceeds of approximately $27 million. The Honorable Richard J. Leon will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors. The remaining three defendants remain at large.
The FBI’s Washington Field Office is investigating the case.
Trial Attorneys Katherine Raut and Tarsha Phillibert of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, Trial Attorney Steven Parker of the Criminal Division’s Money Laundering and Asset Recovery Section, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Kathryn Rakoczy of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs provided significant assistance in this matter.
The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.
An indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.