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Two more charged in Rolls Royce bribe case

The DOJ Thursday charged a former Armenian ambassador and a Russian national with being part of a bribery scheme to help an Ohio-based unit of Rolls Royce win an overseas pipeline contract.

Azat Martirossian, 62, a citizen of Armenia who formerly served as that country’s ambassador to China, and Vitaly Leshkov, 50, a Russian citizen, were charged in a superseding indictment filed Thursday in federal court in Ohio.

Both face one count of conspiracy to launder money and 10 counts of money laundering.

The two are believed to be living outside the United States, the DOJ said.

Thursday’s superseding indictment included FCPA charges against Petros Contoguris, 70, a Greek citizen living in Turkey.

He’s the founder and chief executive officer of Gravitas & CIE. International Ltd.

Contoguris was first indicted in late 2017 and is still at large. He faces one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, one count of conspiracy to launder money, seven counts of violating the FCPA, and 10 counts of money laundering.

In January 2017, Rolls Royce paid a U.S. criminal penalty of $170 million as part of an $800 million global settlement that also involved investigations by the UK and Brazil.

The DOJ charged Rolls Royce plc with conspiracy to violate the FCPA. The company entered into a deferred prosecution agreement that required it to cooperate in related investigations.

Rolls Royce admitted widespread bribery in at least a dozen countries including Kazakhstan.

Thursday’s charges against Martirossian, Leshkov, and Contoguris involve bribes to a Kazakh official to win a $145 million contract to supply equipment and services for a gas pipeline from Kazakhstan to China.

The contract was won by Rolls-Royce Energy Systems Inc. — a  Columbus, Ohio-based subsidiary of Rolls-Royce plc.

Four others have pleaded guilty in the case.

James Finley, 67, a UK citizen living in Taiwan, was a former senior executive of Rolls-Royce. He pleaded guilty in July 2017 in federal court in Ohio to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA.

Keith Barnett, 49, of Houston, Texas, a former regional director in energy at Rolls-Royce, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA in December 2016.

Aloysius Johannes Jozef Zuurhout, 54, of the Netherlands pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA in June 2017. He was a former energy sales employee at Rolls-Royce.

Andreas Kohler, 54, of Austria pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA in June 2017. The DOJ said he was a managing director at an international engineering and consulting firm.

As the DOJ said Thursday, an indictment is merely an allegation and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

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

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