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Harry Cassin
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Thomas Fox
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Bill Waite
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The Friday Report

Former Congressman William J. Jefferson says the cash found in his freezer four years ago proves he didn’t violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Yesterday Jefferson filed a petition for certiorari to the Supreme Court, asking for review of the Fourth Circuit’s refusal to dismiss most of the corruption-related charges against him. But he’s not asking for dismissal of the two Foreign Corrupt Practices Act counts.

Jefferson’s case is best known for allegations that in August 2005, he hid $90,000 in the freezer at his Washington home. The New Orleans Times-Picayune reports here that Jefferson’s lawyers say the cash in the freezer is not alleged to be a bribe to Jefferson, but rather evidence of a violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. In an apparent preview of his FCPA defense, his lawyers said the money “was transmitted to Mr. Jefferson by the government’s cooperating witness during the course of the FBI’s sting operation so that he would pass it to a foreign government official,” the then vice president of Nigeria. “But Mr. Jefferson did not do that. Instead, the marked funds were recovered in his home.”

Jefferson says that except for the two FCPA charges, the grand jury’s 16-count indictment depended on materials protected by the absolute privilege in the Constitution’s Speech or Debate Clause (Article I, Section 6, Clause 1). The evidence concerning the cash in the freezer, he acknowledges, wasn’t protected by the privilege. A federal grand jury indicted him in June 2007 for violating the antibribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, and also for soliciting and accepting bribes, wire fraud, money laundering and obstruction of justice. He faces a maximum of 235 years in prison if convicted on all counts. His trial is scheduled to start on May 26. Last year he lost an election for a 10th term in Congress from Louisiana.

The always-excellent scotusblog has a full report. It also has links to the Supreme Court petition in Jefferson v. U.S. here and the Fourth Circuit Court’s decision from November 2008 rejecting Jefferson’s motion to dismiss here.

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The murder of Russian journalist Anna Politkovskaya in 2006 that we talked about earlier this week (here) remains officially unsolved. Yesterday a jury in Moscow acquitted three men charged in her shooting. The LA Times has the story here. On trial were two Chechen brothers and a former Russian police officer. Another man accused in the murder and being tried separately was also released. He’s a member of Russia’s FSB, the domestic successor of the KBG.

The LA Times said of the verdict, “Critics say it was no accident that the search for the killers was ultimately fruitless. Even Moskalenko, the lawyer representing the Politkovskaya family, stopped just short of urging jurors to acquit the suspects, throwing blame instead on corrupt authorities.”

Another journalist from Politkovskaya’s paper, the Novaya Gazeta, was shot and killed in Moscow last month. The Washington Times says four journalists from Novaya Gazeta have been killed in the past eight years. “Since 2000,” it says, “16 journalists have died in Russia under suspicious circumstances — and scores of others have been threatened, intimidated and assaulted.”

* * *

Russia dropped to 147th on the 2008 Corruption Perception Index, tied with Bangladesh, Kenya and Syria. On the 2009 Index of Economic Freedom, it ranks 146th. “Corruption remains all-encompassing,” according to the Heritage Foundation report, “both in the number of instances and in the size of bribes sought. Manifestations include misuse of budgetary resources, theft of government property, kickbacks in the procurement process, extortion, and official collusion in criminal acts. Customs officials are extremely inconsistent in their application of the law.”

In the World Bank’s 2009 Doing Business project, Russia ranks near the bottom — 120th, down eight places from last year. The amount of red tape choking the system is astounding. Building a warehouse in Russia requires 54 procedures and takes an average of 704 days. The OECD-wide averages, by comparison, are about 15 procedures and 161 days.

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