DOJ Discloses Guilty Pleas to FCPA Charges by Oil Executives

Anti-corruption and FCPA enforcement has long been a priority for the Commission as well as the DOJ. Many of these cases, while within the jurisdiction of the U.S., involve foreign firms and nationals. An action disclosed by the DOJ earlier this week involving two U.K. residents is illustrative. U.S. v. Ahsani, No. 4:19-cr-00147 (S.D.Tx. Filed March 4, 2019).

Cyrus Ahsani is the former CEO of a Monaco-based intermediary company that provided services for multinational firms in the energy sector. Saman Ahsani is the former COO of the same firm. Each executive resides in the U.K., although Mr. Ahsani once lived in the United States. Each man pleaded guilty on March 25, 2019 to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA to secure certain business contracts in foreign countries. Steven Hunter, the former business development manager of the firm, also pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA but on August 2, 2018.

The charging papers as to Messrs. Cyrus and Saman Ahsani allege that beginning in 1999, and continuing until 2016, the former CEO and COO engaged in a scheme to violate the FCPA that took place in nine different countries: Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Iran, Iraq, Kazakhstan, Libya and Syria. Over the period millions of dollars in bribes were paid to officials in the various countries to obtain and or retain business tied to the energy sector.

The two former senior executives laundered the proceeds of the scheme to promote and conceal their actions, according to the charging papers. They also destroyed evidence to obstruct investigations in the U.S. and other jurisdictions.

Mr. Hunter is alleged to have participated in the scheme by facilitating the payment of bribes to officials in Liberia between 2009 and 2015. Defendants Cyrus and Saman Ahsani are scheduled to be sentenced on April 20, 2020. Mr. Hunter is scheduled for sentencing on March 13, 2020.

The DOJ acknowledged that the SEC, along with the governments of Australia, Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Monaco, the Netherlands, Portugal, Switzerland and the U.S. provide assistance in the investigation.