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Harry Cassin
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Former Embraer sales VP pleads guilty to Aramco bribes

A former sales executive of Embraer S.A. pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court in New York City for bribing a foreign official in exchange for help selling jets to Saudi Aramco.

Colin Steven, 61, a UK citizen living in the United Arab Emirates, was charged with one count of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA.

He was also charged with one count of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to launder money, and one count of making a false statement. 

No sentencing date was set.

Brazil-based aircraft maker Embraer paid $205 million to the DOJ and SEC in October 2016 to resolve FCPA violations.

Embraer admitted bribing officials in Saudi Arabia, the Dominican Republic, and Mozambique.

Steven was a vice president of sales and marketing in Embraer’s Executive Jets Division.

In his plea Thursday, he admitted arranging the Saudi bribe. He also took a kickback and lied about it to U.S. investigators.

The bribe was $1.5 million, the DOJ said

In early 2010, Saudi Aramco awarded Embraer a $93 million contract for three new aircraft.

Steven disguised the bribe as commissions to a South African company that was partly owned by his friends. 

The South African company transferred most of the money to the foreign official’s intermediary, the DOJ said. The rest of the money went to Steven.

The DOJ said Thursday that Embraer has cooperated since its FCPA settlement last year. Eleven individuals have been charged in the case in Brazil for “misconduct in the Dominican Republic,” the DOJ said. 

Two other individuals have been charged in Saudi Arabia.

The DOJ said it had help from authorities in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, South Africa, and Switzerland.


Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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  1. As a former employee of Aramco when it was under American management, even buying a lunch for one's boss was considered a bribe, thus unacceptable. As a born and raised Saudi national, I know that bribery and corruption is embedded in the Saudi ethos. Wish Prince Mohammed luck in his quest to eradicate corruption, as long as he and his father not included.

  2. So, Embraer settles corruption charges. Boeing and Embraer are currently negotiating a tie up agreement. Boeing approached Embraer more than a decade ago about such an agreement but was rebuffed. Bombardier and Airbus have completed a tie up agreement on the "C series" aircraft. Boeing has complained about Bombardier's unfair government support and won tariff protection. Airbus is under a cloud of corruption allegations that the CEO has warned may not turn out well for Airbus. Clearly, selling airplanes today is as murky as it was in the days of the Lockheed bribery scandal more than 40 years ago.

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