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Blackwater And Bribery

Will the latest federal indictment involving private security firm Blackwater lead to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges? It’s possible, based on allegations against the five defendants.

On Friday, a federal grand jury in North Carolina indicted Gary Jackson, Blackwater’s former president; William Matthews, the former executive vice president; Andrew Howell, the former general counsel; Ana Bundy, a former vice president; and Ronald Slezak, a former weapons manager.

They were charged with 15 counts of conspiracy to violate firearms laws, making false statements and representations on federally licensed firearms dealers’ records, possession of machine guns, possession of other firearms (short-barrelled shotguns) not registered in the National Firearms and Registration and Transfer Record, and aiding and abetting.

They weren’t charged with bribing foreign officials. But federal investigators have reportedly been looking into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act by Blackwater, now renamed Xe. And the indictment contained this allegation:

Another means [of circumventing the possession and disposition of arms] consisted of Blackwater/Xe’s efforts to gain favor with the Government of the Kingdom of Jordan. When the King of Jordan came to examine Blackwater/Xe’s training facility at Moyock, North Carolina, the defendants arranged to present the King and/or his entourage with several firearms as gifts. When the defendants subsequently realized they were unable to account for the disposition of the firearms, they falsified four separate Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms (ATF) Form 4473s for submission to federal authorities. The defendants falsely completed the forms to give the appearance that the weapons had been purchased by them as individuals.

Giving gifts to foreign officials to obtain or retain business can violate the FCPA. Members of royal families are foreign officials under the law.

In November last year, the New York Times reported that Blackwater executives authorized secret payments of about $1 million to Iraqi officials that might have violated the FCPA. The payments were “intended to silence [the officials’] criticism and buy their support after a September 2007 episode in which Blackwater security guards fatally shot 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad,” the Times said.

Four former employees the Times interviewed for the November story claimed the payments were approved by the company’s president and money was wired to Iraq from accounts in Jordan. The employees didn’t know if the payments were actually made. The report said “Blackwater’s strategy of buying off the government officials, which would have been illegal under American law, created a deep rift inside the company, according to the former executives.”

A report by the Times Friday said, “While the indictment is somewhat limited in scope, it could be the government’s opening salvo in a broader offensive to bring criminal charges against the company. They could include charges for bribery and export violations, according to officials familiar with the case, perhaps under a strategy of turning former and current executives of the company against one another.”

Download a copy of the April 15, 2010 indictment in U.S. v. Gary Jackson et al here.

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