[JURIST] The US Department of Justice (DOJ) [official website] announced [press release] on Tuesday that 22 individuals were indicted [materials] for violating federal bribery laws in an effort to obtain foreign business contracts. An undercover operation conducted by the FBI found violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) [text], which prohibits the bribing of foreign officials for the purpose of obtaining business. The defendants believed they were dealing with an agent representing an African minister of defense, and they agreed to offer a commission in order to secure part of a $15 million military contract. The indictment also includes [Reuters report] conspiracy to commit money laundering charges through the sale of goods such as guns and armor. Several corporate executives are among those indicted, including the current and former CEOs of Protective Products of America and the VP of Sales for Smith & Wesson [corporate websites]. Smith & Wesson issued a statement [press release] following the indictment denying any knowledge of their employee's involvement and promising to cooperate with the government as the investigation proceeds.
The indictment was the largest ever under the FCPA. In August, former congressman William Jefferson (D-LA) [official profile; JURIST news archive] was convicted [JURIST report] of 11 counts of public corruption under the FCPA. In November 2007, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) [official website] reached [JURIST report] a $30 million settlement with Chevron [corporate website] over FCPA charges in connection with the company's involvement in a scheme to exchange illegal payments to Iraqi officials under the now-defunct UN Oil-for-Food program [official website; JURIST news archive]. Also in 2007, the DOJ charged [JURIST report] three drilling companies under the FCPA for paying Nigerian officials in order to obtain expedited clearance through customs.