Louis Berger paid $1 mn in bribes in India

Washington, July 21 (IANS) New Jersey-based construction management company Louis Berger allegedly paid nearly $1 million in bribes to unnamed Indian officials, including a minister, to win a major water developmental project in Goa.

While the US Department of Justice has not disclosed the names of Indian officials, last week the company agreed to pay a $17.1 million criminal penalty to resolve charges of bribing officials in India, Indonesia, Vietnam and Kuwait.

Two of the company’s former executives also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with the scheme.

One of them, James McClung, 59, of Dubai, previously served as senior vice president responsible for the company’s operations in India.

He later succeeded Richard Hirsch, 61, of Makaati, Philippines, in Vietnam.

The sentencing hearings for Hirsch and McClung are scheduled for November 5.

Detailing “corrupt conduct in India”, the criminal complaint says “On or about December 30, 2009, a consortium partner sent an e-mail to agents of the company, stating, ‘I enclose the working for the shares between the firms for the Goa Project. Pls go through the same and we could discuss. Pls see the sheet ‘Master’.”

The complaint says, on or about August 17, 2010, a consortium partner sent an e-mail to James McClung, stating, “As discussed I enclose the details as provided by (third-party intermediary). I have also added the details of amounts paid to (the company) as of date by (the consortium partner) in the same sheet.”

The attachment included an entry, “Paid (an agent of the company) to minister on behalf of agent”.

“On or about August 26, 2010, a consortium partner prepared a payment tracking schedule stating that the company had paid $976,630 in bribes in connection with the Goa project to date,” the complaint said.

Louis Berger has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) and admitted its criminal conduct, including its conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, according to the Justice Department.

According to the charging documents, from 1998 through 2010, the company and its employees, including Hirsch and McClung, orchestrated $3.9 million in bribe payments to foreign officials in various countries.

To conceal the payments, the co-conspirators made payments under the guise of “commitment fees”, “counterpart per diems”, and other payments to third-party vendors.

In reality, the payments were intended to fund bribes to foreign officials who had awarded contracts to Louis Berger or who supervised the firm’s work on contracts.

(Arun Kumar can be contacted at arun.kumar@ians.in)

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