FCPA enforcement continues to be a key Justice Department priority. This year, there have been three trials of FCPA cases and three guilty verdicts. Two of the defendants have been sentenced with Frederic Bourke receiving one year and a day, discussed here, and former congressman William Jefferson 13 years on a number of counts. With over 120 open investigations, there can be little doubt that more cases and more trials are on the way.

On Friday, Charles Jumet pleaded guilty to a two count information based on participating in a conspiracy to bribe Panamanian officials in connection with obtaining business under a maritime contract. U.S. v. Jumet, (E.D. Va. Filed Nov. 13, 2009). One count charged the defendant with conspiring to make corrupt payments to a foreign government official in violation of the FCPA. The second charged Mr. Jumet with making a false statement.

According to the court papers, beginning in December 1997 and continuing through July 2003, Mr. Jumet made a series of corrupt payments which totaled about $200,000 to the former administrator and his deputy of Panama’s National Maritime Ports Authority. Payments were also made to a former high-ranking executive official of the Republic of Panama. As a result of the payments, Mr. Jumet and Ports Engineering Consulting Corporation were awarded a no-bid 20 year concession to perform the work along the waterway.

Ports Engineering, a Panama company, was used to make the payments. That entity is affiliated with Overman Associates, an engineering firm based in Virginia Beach, Va. Ports Engineering was created, according to statements made by Mr. Jumet during his plea, so that Overman Associates and others could obtain the maritime contract from the Panamanian government.

As one point, the Panama government investigated the award of a contract to the company. Specifically, in 2000 Panama’s Comptroller General’s Office suspended the contact which had been awarded to Ports Engineering without the solicitation of any bids from other firms. In 2003, the government resumed making payments to Ports Engineering.

The false statement was made as part of an effort to conceal one of the bribe payments made to secure the contract. In December 1997 a check payable to bearer for $18,000 was deposited into the account of a former high ranking elected official. When federal agents inquired about the check, Mr. Jumet falsely claimed the payment was a campaign donation. In fact, the check was part of the payments made to secure the contract.

Mr. Jumet is cooperating with the on-going DOJ investigation. His sentencing is scheduled for February 12, 2010. See also http://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/2009/November/09-crm-1229.html.