US Contractors Accused of Iraq Bribery

The New York Times reports that two American businessmen have been charged with paying army officers more than $1 million in bribes to secure multimillion-dollar contracts to supply the American military and help rebuild Iraq.

A federal indictment against the men, George H. Lee, and his son, Justin W. Lee, was unsealed on Friday. Both are charged with four counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy.

The Lees are among nearly 60 contractors and military officers to face criminal charges stemming from the scramble for often poorly monitored government contracts in the early years of the Iraq war.

Federal officials have also blocked 120 people and companies accused of fraud and corruption from doing business with the government. The Lees’ company, Lee Dynamics International, was suspended in July 2007.

Justin W. Lee was expected to appear in federal court in Philadelphia as early as Tuesday, and George H. Lee is believed to be at large outside the United States, possibly in Kuwait or Dubai.

The 25-page indictment describes a relationship between the Lees and military contracting officers, where lucrative contracts to build warehouses in Iraq or provide American troops with bottled water and blankets could be bought for the cost of a first-class plane ticket or a wire transfer of several thousand dollars.

Court documents say that one Army major at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait received at least $225,000 in cash in exchange for funneling $14 million worth of military contracts toward the Lees’ business.

The major is identified only as “Person One” in the indictment, but according to the New York Times report, her description almost perfectly matches that of Maj. Gloria D. Davis, who shot and killed herself in Baghdad in December 2006 after telling investigators she had taken $225,000 in bribes from the company.

The indictment portrays “Person One” and the Lees as working hand in hand. It says that the Lees secured a job for the son of “Person One,” and that she and George Lee flew to Thailand together to establish a bank account to receive wire transfers.

She is quoted in a January 2005 e-mail to George Lee thanking him, “for everything you have done for me and my family.”

The indictment also ties the case against the Lees to another major corruption inquiry involving Maj. John Cockerham, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison for taking $9.6 million in bribes while working at a contracting office in Kuwait. Seven other soldiers have been implicated in that investigation.

Court documents say that Major Cockerham received “at least $1 million” from the Lees in exchange for steering them business to provide troops with bottled water, bunk beds and mattresses, among other things.

(Source: New York Times)

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