Senate committee approves sanctions bill against Burma

On February 12th, the US Committee on Foreign Relations has approved a bill (Burma Human Rights and Freedom Act of 2017) providing for economic sanctions and travel ban against Burmese military officials responsible for human rights violations against the Rohingya community.

The bill also plans to limit military cooperation unless the Burmese military demonstrates significant progress in respect of human rights standards. The bill must now be passed by the Senate.

Government announces strengthening arms export control on human-rights concerns

Since the sale by Canada of armoured vehicles to Saudi Arabia in 2016, the authorities are regularly criticized for not taking into consideration, in the license application review, the possibility that armaments may be used in violation of human rights.

For the first time, on February 8th, Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland announced in an allocution that [Canada] would not allow the export of a controlled good if there was a substantial risk that it would be used to commit human rights violations”.

Following this announcement, Canadian government demanded a second review of the 16 Canadian helicopters sale contract to Philippines, to ensure that its use by Philippines armed forces would not contradict human rights. In this context, the President of the Philippines requested the cancellation of the contract.

Total CEO urges Trump to maintain Iranian nuclear agreement

According to Reuters, the CEO of Total Patrick Pouyanné might have urged Donald Trump to maintain the Iran nuclear agreement. The oil group, already active in Iran, has argued that Western investments could help support local reformers to promote democracy.

As a reminder, President Trump extended the suspension of economic sanctions against Iran last January and set a deadline of 120 days to correct “the terrible defects” of which, according to him, this agreement, signed in Vienna the 14th July of 2015, suffers.

Further SFO charges in Barclays 2008 Qatar capital raising case

On February 12, the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced that it has charged Barclays Bank Plc, a subsidiary of Barclays Plc. The charges relate to the financial assistance Barclays Bank Plc gave to Qatar Holding LLC between 1 October and 30 November 2008, which was in the form of a USD 3 billion loan.

This follows charges brought against the holding company, Barclays Plc, and four individuals in June 2017, whose trial has been set for January 2019 (see our newsletter of 06/26/2018).

Norway’s wealth fund sets out new expectations for companies regarding the prevention of corruption

On February 13, Norway’s wealth fund – managed by Norges Bank Investment Management – set out new expectations for the companies it invests in, regarding the way they prevent and fight corruption internally.

The fund said in a statement it expects “boards to ensure that the company sets a clear policy on anti-corruption and that relevant measures are integrated into business strategy, risk management and reporting”. A day earlier, the Ethisphere Institute had released “The 2018 World’s Most Ethical Companies Honoree List” honoring the 135 most ethical companies in the world.

A new law makes mandatory compliance programs for companies contracting with the public administration of the Federal District

On February 6, a new law was adopted by the Federal District – one of the 27 districts of Brazil  – requiring the implementation of a compliance program by companies seeking to enter into contracts, partnerships, agreements, concessions, or public-private partnerships with the public administration of the Federal District, in amounts equal to or greater than the bidding price, estimated between BRL 80,000 and BRL 650,000.

This requirement only applies to contracts with a term equal to or greater than 180 days. In case of non-compliance with the law requirements, a fine of 0.1% of the contract value may be daily imposed. Earlier in December 2017, the district of Rio de Janeiro had already published a similar law, making it mandatory for companies entering into contract with the public administration of the State of Rio de Janeiro to implement a compliance program (see our newsletter of 12/11/2017).

The former president and the Oxfam’s chairman arrested as part of a corruption probe

On February 13, the former Guatemalan President, Alvaro Colom, and the former finance minister, Juan Alberto Fuentes – who is now chairman of Oxfam International –, were arrested by Guatemalan authorities as part of a local corruption investigation (Reuters, 02/13/2014).

The investigation is reportedly looking at buses procurement contracts for the capital city (amounting to USD 35 million) which were awarded to four companies through a bidding process, and were allegedly inflated.

Resignation of the President over corruption scandals

On February 14, Jacob Zuma announced his resignation as President of South Africa “with immediate effect” after the ruling African National Congress party ordered him to step down, following several corruption scandals.

His resignation came just hours after police raided the luxury home of the Gupta family, billionaire allies of the former president who have been at the centre of corruption allegations against Jacob Zuma and his circle for years. On February 15, Cyril Ramaphosa was elected President of South Africa.

Two ex-principals of an Engie’s affiliate confess having participated to a public officials corruption scheme

On February 7, the former commercial director of Cofely, a Spanish subsidiary of Engie, confessed to judicial authorities that the company “had a specific fund to bribe public officials from several municipalities in exchange of the award of energy efficiency contracts”, according to El País. Le Figaro indicates that the kickbacks – from 2% to 3% of the total contract’s worth – were distributed to a dozen Spanish cities’ officials, from contracts representing a total amount of 300 million euros. On February 9, another ex-director of Cofely declared that the Cofely’s Managing Director at the time, was aware of such practices and that “Spanish managers of Cofely had to inform the headquarters in Paris of all the projects that exceeded 500,000 euros and had to ask for their signature for those that were over one million euros”.

This case is a branch of the Punica Operation, which started in Spain in 2014 and revealed a large corruption scheme in the attribution of public contracts involving Spanish politicians, mostly members of the Partido Popular. Official investigations started in 2014 and according to El Español, ” Anticorruption Prosecutor’s Office expects to be able to present its report to the judge soon for the trial to begin “.

Airbus announced that it will cooperate with US authorities regarding French and British corruption investigations

On February 15th, Airbus announced, in a note accompanying its 2017 results, that it will fully cooperate with US authorities on French and British corruption investigations that could fall within US jurisdiction. US authorities requested information relating to the investigations conducted by the Parquet National Financier (PNF) and the Serious Fraud Office (SFO) on allegations of fraud, bribery and corruption, as part of the use of intermediaries in the civil activities of Airbus.

The aeronautics and defense company announced, moreover, that it has informed US authorities of irregularities in certain export contracts of military equipment.