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DOJ appeals trial court’s second dismissal of long-running FCPA case

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals will expedite its review of a trial court’s second dismissal of an FCPA case that began for the defendant in Portugal five years ago.

On July 31, the 5th Circuit issued an order for an extradited hearing in the DOJ’s case against Paulo Jorge Da Costa Casqueiro Murta.

Murta, a Portuguese national, was indicted in 2019 on one count of conspiring to violate the FCPA and three money-laundering counts.

The indictment accused him of helping set up bank accounts to handle bribe payments to officials of Venezuela’s state energy company PDVSA.

He was extradited to Houston in July 2021.

In July 2022, the federal district court in Houston dismissed all charges on grounds including lack of jurisdiction, statute of limitations, vagueness of the FCPA “agent” language, and failure to provide a Miranda warning.

The 5th Circuit reversed the dismissal and sent the case back for trial.

On May 17 this year, the trial judge again dismissed all charges, on grounds that Murta was denied a speedy trial in violation of the federal speedy trial statute and the Six Amendment.

The DOJ filed a notice of appeal on June 13.

The 5th Circuit said last week it will issue an “expedited briefing schedule.”

In March 2018, Murta appeared at the office of the public prosecutor in Lisbon, accompanied by his Portuguese lawyer. Five days earlier, the prosecutor had summoned Murta for questioning.

Agents from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security wanted to ask Murta what he knew about bank accounts and shell companies allegedly used to handle bribe money related to PDVSA.

During the day-long interview, the agents told Murta repeatedly he was not a suspect but a witness, and they wanted his help. But some of his answers included what the DOJ later called “a number of questionable statements.”

The grand jury indicted him thirteen months later.

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