Saturday, June 26, 2010

Corruption: Two Afghan companies plead guilty to bribing U.S. officials

Two Afghan trucking companies pleaded guilty today to paying multiple bribes to U.S. public officials in exchange for unfair advantages in procuring contract work at the Bagram Airfield (photo) in Afghanistan, announced Assistant Attorney General Lanny A. Breuer of the Criminal Division and U.S. Attorney Neil H. MacBride of the Eastern District of Virginia. The companies have agreed to pay a combined total of $4.4 million in criminal fines.

Afghan International Trucking (AIT) and Afghan Trade Transportation (ATT) each pleaded guilty in the Eastern District of Virginia to one count of bribery. According to the companies' plea agreements, AIT will pay $3.36 million in criminal fines and ATT will pay $1.04 million in criminal fines.

The U.S. Army operates the Bagram Airfield in support of military operations in Afghanistan. According to court documents, the U.S. Army's Transportation Operations Support Office oversaw all trucking contracts on the base. The Army assigned both military officers and contract employees to the transportation office. These individuals were responsible for reviewing all transportation requests and transportation providers. According to court documents, nine Afghan trucking companies worked at Bagram and officials in the transportation office assigned trucking services to these companies based on their performance records. Among the nine trucking companies were AIT and ATT.

According to court documents, AIT made corrupt payments of more than $120,000 to military officials in Afghanistan, including James Paul Clifton, Ana Chavez and a third, unnamed individual. ATT made corrupt payments totaling more than $30,000 to Clifton.

According to the statement of facts, employees for AIT started offering money to officials in the transportation office beginning in 2004. At one point, AIT paid Chavez with a candy box stuffed with $70,000. According to court documents, in mid-2008, AIT was paying Clifton $20,000 a month for preferable treatment. In May 2008, ATT entered into a similar illegal agreement with Clifton by which ATT paid bribes of $15,000 a month in exchange for Clifton assigning ATT an additional day of trucking service a month.

Clifton pleaded guilty in August 2009 to one count of bribery for accepting bribes from AIT and ATT in exchange for providing them with preferential treatment. In October 2009, Chavez pleaded guilty to one count of bribery and one count of money laundering for her involvement in an identical scheme with AIT.

This case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorneys Liam Brennan, Emily Allen and Mark Pletcher of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve A. Linick, Deputy Chief of the Criminal Division's Fraud Section, and Executive Director of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force. The investigation is being conducted by Defense Criminal Investigative Service, U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command Division, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, members of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force and the International Contract Corruption Task Force (ICCTF).

Today's charges are an example of the Department of Justice's commitment to protect U.S. taxpayers from procurement fraud through the National Procurement Fraud Task Force. The National Procurement Fraud Initiative, announced in October 2006, is designed to promote the early detection, identification, prevention and prosecution of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs. The ICCTF is a joint law enforcement agency task force that seeks to detect, investigate and dismantle corruption and contract fraud resulting from U.S. Overseas Contingency Operations, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait. This case is part of their ongoing efforts to investigate and prosecute warzone corruption.

Source: U.S. Department of Justice