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California Exec Pleads Guilty

The Justice Department has announced its first Foreign Corrupt Practices Act enforcement action of 2009. Mario Covino, 44, an Italian citizen living in Irvine, California, pleaded guilty in federal court in Santa Ana to a single count of conspiring to violate the FCPA by paying at least $1 million in bribes to foreign officials in several countries. He’s cooperating in an ongoing federal investigation and waiting to be sentenced in July. He faces up to five years in prison.

The DOJ said Covino was formerly the worldwide sales director for an unidentified Rancho Santa Margarita-based company that designs and makes valves used in the oil, gas, nuclear, coal and power plant industries. The plea agreement refers to the company as an “unnamed co-conspirator.” A report from the Associated Press said online business directories list Covino as having worked for Control Components Inc. The company, also known as CCI, hasn’t commented. It is owned by British-based IMI plc, which trades on the London Stock Exchange under the symbol IMI.L.

Covino acknowledged that he arranged for company employees and agents to pay about $1 million to employees at state-owned foreign enterprises from March 2003 through August 2007. He said his company made about $5 million in profits from the business obtained through the bribes. According to the plea agreement, some of the corrupt payments went to officials at Petrobras (Brazil), Dingzhou Power (China), Datang Power (China), China Petroleum, China Resources Power, China National Offshore Oil Company, PetroChina, Maharashtra State Electricity Board (India), KHNP (Korea), Petronas (Malaysia), Dolphin Energy (UAE) and Abu Dhabi Company for Oil Operations (UAE).

Covino also said he provided false and misleading responses during a 2004 internal audit of the company’s commission payments. And to obstruct the audit, he deleted and told others to delete emails that referred to corrupt payments.

Download the DOJ’s January 8, 2009 release here.

Download Covino’s plea agreement here.
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