BizJet officers charged with bribing Latin American officials

Fri Apr 5, 2013 7:54pm EDT

* Lufthansa unit BizJet provides aircraft maintenance

* Four insiders allegedly offered bribes to get contracts

* Two defendants pleaded guilty; other two remain abroad

By Nick Brown

April 5 (Reuters) - Two officers of a Lufthansa subsidiary were indicted in Oklahoma on charges of bribing foreign officials to secure aircraft maintenance contracts, while two others pleaded guilty to related criminal charges, the U.S. Department of Justice announced.

The charges, unsealed on Friday, were filed in January of 2012 against four directors of BizJet International Sales & Support, a U.S.-based unit of Lufthansa that provides aircraft maintenance, after a joint probe by the DOJ and FBI.

The men are accused of offering "hundreds of thousands of dollars" in bribes to Latin American military officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, the DOJ said in a statement on Friday.

The recipients of the bribes, to ensure aircraft maintenance contracts for BizJet, include officials at the Mexican Policia Federal Preventiva and the Estado De Roraima in Brazil, the DOJ said.

The charges follow an $11.8 million penalty paid last year by BizJet stemming from the same alleged corrupt practice.

Two of the men have already pleaded guilty, according to the DOJ. Paul DuBois, the company's former vice president of sales, admitted to one count each of violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA, while Former Vice President of Finance Neal Uhl pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the FCPA.

Both men were sentenced in federal court in Oklahoma on Friday to probation and eight months home detention.

BizJet's former Chief Executive, Bernd Kowalewski, along with former Sales Manager Jald Jensen, were indicted on charges of violating and conspiring to violate the FCPA and laundering money. Both are believed to be abroad, the DOJ said.

A spokeswoman for BizJet did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesperson for Lufthansa could not immediately be reached.

FCPA investigations are fairly common among U.S. companies, but the DOJ has had some trouble making charges stick. Last year, the department moved to dismiss a case involving almost two dozen defendants in the arms industry after prosecutors were unable to convince two juries that what the defendants did was illegal.

Another federal judge in California in December 2011 dismissed the conviction of power products company Lindsey Manufacturing based on what he said was prosecutorial misconduct.

The BizJet charges reflect the department's "continued commitment to holding individuals accountable for violations of the FCPA," Mythili Raman, acting assistant attorney general, said in the DOJ's statement.

Valerie Parlave, assistant director at the FBI's Washington field office, said the bureau is "committed to curbing corruption."

"Business executives have a responsibility to act appropriately in order to maintain a fair and competitive international market," Parlave said in the statement.

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