PDVSA workers charged by the US Department of Justice for bribery and money laundering

On February 12, the US Department of Justice (DOJ) announced that it had indicted five former employees of Petróleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) – Venezuela’s state oil company – for money laundering and conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). The indictment alleges that the five defendants solicited bribes in exchange for obtaining contracts with an agent of the state company and then laundered the funds as part of an international network in several countries, including Switzerland.

Four of them were arrested in Spain in October 2017 by Spanish authorities on arrest warrants issued by US authorities. One of the defendants was extradited to the United States while 3 others remain in Spanish custody pending extradition. A fifth defendant remains at large.

Credit Suisse under investigation for its hiring practices

On February 14, Credit Suisse announced it was under investigation in the United States over its hiring practices in the Asia Pacific region. In particular, Credit Suisse said it has been responding to requests from the DOJ and the SEC regarding whether it hired referrals from government agencies and other  state-owned  entities  in  exchange  for  investment  banking  business  and/or  regulatory  approvals – which could constitute a potential violation of the FCPA –.

Credit Suisse said it was cooperating with the authorities on this matter. JP Morgan was already sentenced to a USD 264 million fine in November 2016 for similar hiring practices. Other banks, including HSBC, have also been contacted by US authorities regarding the same matter.

Lotte Group chairman and former President’s friend, Choi Soon-sil, sentenced to jail for bribery

On February 13, the Seoul Central District Court sentenced Shin Dong-bin, the Lotte Group chairman, to two years and six months of imprisonment for bribery tied to an influence-peddling scandal that led to the impeachment of the former president (see our Newsletter of 04/24/2017).

The Seoul Central District Court said that Shin Dong-bin offered 7 billion won (USD 6.5 million) in bribery to the former president to obtain favors such as winning a license to open a duty free shop. The same day, Choi Soon-sil – a close friend of former President Park Geun-hye – was sentenced to 20 years in jail for corruption, influence-peddling and abuse of power. Choi was accused of using her presidential connections to pressure conglomerates – including electronics giant Samsung and Lotte Group – to donate millions of dollars to two non-profit foundations she controlled (see our Newsletter of 12/18/2017).