The United States Justice Department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation have confirmed that construction giant Julius Berger’s foreign affiliate Bilfinger SE, has agreed to pay N5.1 billion ($32m) penalty for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.Bilfinger SE, German-based international engineering and services company, was charged with bribing Nigerian government officials to obtain and retain contracts related to work for the Eastern Gas Gathering System (EGGS). A project valued at $387 million.
Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division and Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave of the FBI’s Washington Field Office made the announcement.
As part of the agreed resolution, the department Tuesday filed a three-count criminal information in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas charging Bilfinger with violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA’s anti-bribery provisions. The department and Bilfinger agreed to resolve the charges by entering into a deferred prosecution agreement for a term of three years. In addition to the monetary penalty, Bilfinger agreed to implement rigorous internal controls, continue cooperating fully with the department, and retain an independent corporate compliance monitor for at least 18 months. The agreement acknowledges Bilfinger’s cooperation with the department and its remediation efforts.
According to court documents, from late 2003 through June 2005, Bilfinger conspired with Willbros Group Inc. and others to make corrupt payments totaling more than $6 million to Nigerian government officials to assist in obtaining and retaining contracts related to the EGGS project. Bilfinger and Willbros formed a joint venture to bid on the EGGS project and inflated the price of the joint venture’s bid by three percent to cover the cost of paying bribes to Nigerian officials. As part of the conspiracy, Bilfinger employees bribed Nigerian officials with cash that Bilfinger employees sent from Germany to Nigeria. At another point in the conspiracy, when Willbros employees encountered difficulty obtaining enough money to make their share of the bribe payments, Bilfinger loaned them $1 million, with the express purpose of paying bribes to the Nigerian officials.
On September 14, 2006, Jim Bob Brown, a former Willbros executive, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA in connection with his role in making corrupt payments to Nigerian government officials to obtain and retain the EGGS contract and in connection with his role in making corrupt payments in Ecuador. Brown was sentenced on January 28, 2010, to serve 12 months and one day in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $17,500 fine.
On November 5, 2007, Jason Steph, also a former Willbros executive, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA in connection with his role in making corrupt payments to Nigerian government officials to obtain and retain the EGGS contract. Steph was sentenced on January 28, 2010, to serve 15 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $2,000 fine.
On May 14, 2008, Willbros Group Inc. and Willbros International Inc. entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a $22 million criminal penalty in connection with the company’s payment of bribes to government officials in Nigeria and Ecuador. On March 30, 2012, the government moved to dismiss the charges against Willbros on the grounds that Willbros had satisfied its obligations under the deferred prosecution agreement, and on April 2, 2012, the court granted the United States’ motion.
On December 19, 2008, Kenneth Tillery, a former Willbros executive, was charged with conspiring to make and making bribe payments to Nigerian and Ecuadoran officials in connection with the EGGS project and pipeline projects in Ecuador and conspiring to launder the bribe payments. Tillery remains a fugitive. The charges against Tillery are merely accusations, and he is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
On November 12, 2009, Paul Grayson Novak, a former Willbros consultant, pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA in connection with his role in making corrupt payments to Nigerian government officials to obtain and retain the EGGS contract. Novak was sentenced on May 3, 2013, to serve 15 months in prison, to be followed by two years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay a $1 million fine.
The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office and its team of special agents dedicated to the investigation of foreign bribery cases. The case is being prosecuted by Senior Trial Attorney Laura N. Perkins of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section.