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U.K. Court Grants Access To Tesler, Chodan Files

A newspaper in Britain won the right last week to see documents filed in the U.K. extradition hearings of Jeffrey Tesler and Wojciech Chodan.

The Guardian called the judgment by a three-justice panel a ‘groundbreaking case that strengthens the media’s right to see documents used in criminal cases.’

The U.S. government and a magistrate had opposed disclosure of the documents, the Guardian said.

Tesler and Chodan were arrested in the U.K. at the request of the U.S. and handed over to the DOJ in March last year. They later pleaded guilty to FCPA-related charges for helping KBR and its partners pay $182 million in bribes to Nigeria officials.

Tesler was sentenced in February this year to twenty one months in prison. He was also ordered to forfeit $149 million that he held in a dozen bank accounts in Switzerland and Israel.

Chodan, a former U.K.-based KBR manager, was sentenced to just one year of unsupervised probation. He was allowed to return to the U.K. right away.

Houston-based KBR and three international partners paid $132 million to a Gibraltar corporation controlled by Tesler. He used some of the money to bribe Nigerian officials. KBR and its partners and agents eventually settled FCPA enforcement actions by paying a total of $1.65 billion.

One of the justices said the Guardian decision ‘breaks new ground in the application of the principle of open justice.’

A lawyer for the paper told the court the documents would help explain why Tesler and Chodan ‘were being extradited, during a time when there has been a series of controversies over the extradition of British citizens to the U.S.’

The U.S. government had argued that although ‘the media had an established right to see documents in civil cases, but there was no such right in criminal hearings.’

But the panel said the public ‘in some cases’ should see documents referred to in open court.

The Guardian’s full account of the case is here.

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