You are here

Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Southern District of New York

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, September 8, 2021

Former Ericsson Employee Charged For Role In Foreign Bribery Scheme

Audrey Strauss, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York (“SDNY”), Kenneth A. Polite Jr., the Assistant Attorney General for the Criminal Division of the Department of Justice (“DOJ”), and Darrell J. Waldon, the Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Washington DC Field Office of the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigation (“IRS-CI”), announced today the unsealing of an indictment charging AFEWORK BEREKET, a/k/a “Affe Bereket,” with conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) and to commit money laundering, in connection with his role in a criminal scheme to bribe foreign government officials perpetrated by Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (“LM Ericsson”), a multinational telecommunications company headquartered in Sweden, and its subsidiary Ericsson Egypt Ltd. (“Ericsson Egypt” and, collectively with LM Ericsson, “Ericsson”).  BEREKET remains at large.

U.S. Attorney Audrey Strauss said: “As alleged, Afework Bereket conspired in a corrupt scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to two Djibouti government officials and an official of a state-owned telecom company to win a contract for Ericsson valued at more than €20 million.  To disguise the scheme, Bereket allegedly engaged in financial sleight-of-hand involving a sham consulting contract, a false due-diligence report, and fake invoices.  The alleged criminal scheme has been exposed, and Affe Bereket is now charged in our District with serious federal crimes.”

Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Polite Jr. said: “Bereket allegedly used the U.S. financial system to pay bribes to high-level government officials in Djibouti to ensure that Swedish telecom giant Ericsson won a multimillion-dollar government contract.  Today’s unsealed charges demonstrate the department’s commitment to hold individuals accountable for violations of the FCPA and to ensure that business is won or lost on merit, not the amount of bribes a company’s employees and agents are willing to pay.”

IRS-CI Acting SAC Darrell J. Waldon said: “Our global economy should be one free from corrupt practices.  The indictment unsealed today, reflects the veracity in which IRS-CI will investigate those who engage in bribery to receive their business.  Together with our partners at the Department of Justice, we will continue our efforts to ensure fair competition for companies around the world.

According to allegations in the Indictment, which was unsealed today in Manhattan federal court[1]:

BEREKET, while working for Ericsson, bribed foreign officials in Djibouti in exchange for business with a state-owned telecommunications company there (“Telecom Company-1”). BEREKET was an Ericsson account manager responsible for the Horn of Africa, a region that included Djibouti, from approximately November 2010 until approximately July 2013.  According to the indictment, BEREKET and co-conspirators engaged in a scheme to pay approximately $2.1 million in bribes to three foreign officials – two high-ranking foreign officials in the executive branch of Djibouti’s government, and a high-level executive at Telecom Company-1 – in order to help Ericsson obtain and retain a €20,300,000 contract with Telecom Company-1.  BEREKET and co-conspirators disguised the bribes as payments to a consulting company linked to one of the foreign officials being bribed.  To do so, BEREKET and co-conspirators entered into a sham contract with the consulting company, prepared a false due-diligence report, and caused an Ericsson entity to approve fake invoices.  BEREKET discussed the bribery scheme in multiple communications with co-conspirators.  In one email, he urged  others to pay an invoice from the consulting company “ASAP,” explaining that “[e]verybody in the management of [Telecom Company-1] & in the ministry are waiting their part of the cake.”

*                *                *

AFEWORK BEREKET, 53, a dual citizen of Ethiopia and Sweden, has been charged in the indictment with one count of conspiring to violate the anti-bribery provision of the FCPA, which carries a maximum potential sentence of five years in prison, and one count of conspiring to commit money laundering, which carries a maximum potential sentence of 20 years in prison.

The prosecution of this case is being handled by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit and the FCPA Unit of the Fraud Section of DOJ’s Criminal Division. Assistant U.S. Attorneys David Abramowicz and Juliana N. Murray, together with Acting Assistant Chief Andrew Gentin and Trial Attorneys Michael Culhane Harper and James Mandolfo of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section, are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

 

[1] As the introductory phrase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Indictment and the description of the Indictment set forth herein constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Topic(s): 
Foreign Corruption
Contact: 
james.margolin@usdoj.gov nicholas.biase@usdoj.gov (212) 637-2600
Press Release Number: 
21-234
Updated September 8, 2021