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Nephew of former UN chief pleads guilty to FCPA offenses

A New Jersey-based real estate broker pleaded guilty Friday to trying to bribe a Qatari official to finance the sale of a high-rise building complex in Vietnam.

Joo Hyun Bahn, also known as Dennis Bahn, 39, of Tenafly, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in federal court in Manhattan.

He admitted one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one count of violating the FCPA. 

He faces up to five years in prison on each count. Sentencing is scheduled for June 29.

The bribes were intended to help a South Korean construction company — Keangnam Enterprises Co., Ltd. — sell the Landmark 72 building complex in Hanoi to Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund.

The purported bribes were supposed to be $2.5 million. Landmark 72 was valued at $800 million. Bahn would have made $5 million for brokering the deal.

He was charged with his father, Ban Ki Sang, 69, and Malcolm Harris in December 2016. 

Ban Ki Sang was a senior executive at Keangnam. He’s still at large. His brother is former United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon.

Harris, 53, was sentenced to 42 months in prison in October last year. He pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.

Harris took $500,000 from Ban and Bahn by posing in text messages and emails as an agent of the Qatari official.

“Bahn and Ban transferred $500,000 to Harris for him to pass on to the foreign official,” the DOJ said Friday. 

But Harris double-crossed Bahn and Ban and “simply stole the $500,000 bribe,” the DOJ said.

Prosecutors said a fourth man, San Woo, also known as John Woo, 35, of Edgewater, New Jersey, allegedly helped secure the $500,000 for the upfront bribe.

Woo was charged in a separate complaint with conspiracy to violate the FCPA. He was arrested at New York’s JFK Airport in January 2017 and released on bail.

Landmark 72, also known as Hanoi Landmark 72, opened in 2012. It includes two 50-story office buildings and one 72-floor tower, the tallest building in Vietnam. There are apartments, offices, and hotels in the complex.

The chairman of Keangnam, Sung Woan-jong, committed suicide in April 2015 after being investigated for alleged corruption. He reportedly left a list of politicians in Korea he claimed to have bribed.


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

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