The Justice Department said it arrested four people last week on charges that they and their company bribed Vietnamese officials in exchange for contracts to supply equipment and technology to government agencies in Vietnam.
The DOJ said U.S. citizens Nam Nguyen, 52, of Houston; Joseph Lukas, 59, of Smithville, N.J.; Kim Nguyen, 39, of Philadelphia; and An Nguyen, 32, of Philadelphia were arrested after they, along with Nexus Technologies Inc., were indicted on Sept. 4, 2008, by a federal grand jury in Philadelphia on one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and four substantive counts of violating the FCPA.
The arrests are more evidence of the government’s stepped-up enforcement of the FCPA and its apparent strategy to target individuals.
In April 2008, Washington Post business columnist Steven Pearlstein said the DOJ used to have the equivalent of two people assigned to FCPA cases but “now has as many as 12 prosecutors, assisted by a new team of FBI agents dedicated to these cases.” And ProPublica’s story about Jack Stanley’s guilty plea said, “The active involvement of the FBI is particularly worrisome to [people who violate the FCPA]. In contrast to white-collar investigations handled by the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission, the FBI is believed to be prepared to use techniques more familiar to investigations of organized crime, including wiretapping and undercover agents.”
According to the indictment, Nexus Technologies Inc., a privately-held Delaware company with offices in Philadelphia, New Jersey and Vietnam, sold third-party underwater mapping and bomb containment equipment, helicopter parts, chemical detectors, satellite communication parts and air tracking systems to the government of Vietnam. The indictment alleges that from about 1999 through 2008, the defendants paid at least $150,000 to officials at Vietnam’s Ministries of Transport, Industry and Public Safety to secure supply contracts. The indictment says Nam Nguyen negotiated contracts and bribes with Vietnamese government officials while Lukas negotiated with vendors in the United States. Kim and An Nguyen allegedly arranged for the transfer of funds at Nam Nguyen’s direction.
The conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gain; and a three year term of supervised release. The FCPA counts each carry a maximum penalty of five years in prison, a fine of the greater of $100,000 or twice the gain; and a three year term of supervised release. Nexus Technologies Inc., faces a maximum $2 million fine per count, if convicted.
The DOJ’s announcement said the case was investigated by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Commerce, Office of Export Enforcement. The government hasn’t said whether the four individuals or their company may have violated U.S. export rules.
As the Justice Department says, an indictment is merely an accusation and the defendant is presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.
View the DOJ’s Sept. 5, 2008 release here.
View a copy of the indictment here.
From my research, this appears to be the first FCPA case involving Vietnam. Given the increasing amount of business being conducted by U.S. companies in Vietnam and the large number of covered "foreign officials", this case sends a strong message about the need to be vigilant in conducting business in Vietnam.
Keep up the good work.
Strasburger & Price, LLP
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