A federal judge has acquitted, in part, a former executive of French power and transportation company Alstom after a jury found him guilty last year for his role in a foreign bribery scheme and related money-laundering scheme in Indonesia.
The acquittal is a setback for the Department of Justice in what has been a long-running foreign bribery case that has tested the scope of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The underlying dispute concerned FCPA charges brought by the Justice Department against Lawrence Hoskins, a U.K. citizen employed by the U.K.-based subsidiary of Alstom. Hoskins was assigned to work with a French subsidiary of Alstom on a project in Indonesia. He was first indicted in 2013.
During the November trial, prosecutors presented evidence that Hoskins, in his role as SVP for Alstom’s International Network, engaged in a conspiracy to pay bribes to officials in Indonesia—including a high-ranking member of the Indonesian Parliament and the President of Perusahaan Listrik Negara, the state-owned and state-controlled electricity company in Indonesia—in exchange for assistance in securing a $118 million contract, known as the Tarahan Project, for Alstom Power (API) and its consortium partner, Marubeni, to provide power-related services for Indonesian citizens.
To conceal the bribes, Hoskins and his co-conspirators, according to the evidence, retained two consultants to appear to provide legitimate consulting services on behalf of Alstom Power in connection with the Tarahan Project. Prosecutors also presented evidence that Hoskins repeatedly emailed and called U.S.-based co-conspirators regarding the scheme while they were in the United States, even though Hoskins himself never set foot in the United States during the scheme. Nevertheless, prosecutors had argued Hoskins violated the FCPA by acting as an “agent” of Alstom’s U.S. subsidiary for helping to arrange the bribes. The jury agreed.
That brings us to the latest development in the case: On Wednesday, Judge Janet Arterton for the U.S. District Court for the District of Connecticut acquitted Hoskins on the FCPA-related counts but let stand the money-laundering counts. In a key part of the ruling, Judge Arterton said that the court “harbors significant doubt” that Hoskins “acted as an agent” of Alstom Power related to the Tarahan Project, “in the absence of persuasive evidence demonstrating that [Alstom Power] had authority to control Mr. Hoskins or that he agreed to be so controlled.”
The court agrees with Hoskins that the government “primarily demonstrated that API generally controlled the Tarahan Project, but not that API had control over Mr. Hoskins’s actions sufficient to demonstrate agency,” Judge Arterton said in the decision. Thus, the court found the jury’s verdict on the FCPA charges “against the weight of the evidence adduced at trial.”
Judge Arterton “conditionally” granted Hoskins’ motion for a new trial on the FCPA-related counts, if the acquittal is “later vacated or reversed.” Sentencing has not yet been scheduled for the money-laundering charges. Prudent compliance officers and in-house counsel will want to continue keeping an eye on the case as developments unfold.
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