United Kingdom National Charged with Bribery and Kickback Scheme Involving Iraqi Reconstruction Contracts
A United Kingdom national is charged with wire fraud and conspiracy to commit bribery for his role in a scheme involving the award of millions of dollars of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) reconstruction contracts in Iraq, Acting U.S. Attorney Rachael A. Honig announced this week.
The indictment unsealed today charges Shwan Al-Mulla, 60, the former owner of Iraqi Consultants & Construction Bureau (ICCB), with seven counts of honest services wire fraud and one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and defraud the U.S. government. Al-Mulla remains at large.
According to the indictment:
In 2003, Al-Mulla founded ICCB. Between 2007 and 2009, Al-Mulla and his conspirators, including Ahmed Nouri and another ICCB employee, paid over $1 million in bribes to John Alfy Salama Markus, a USACE employee, in exchange for the awarding of millions of dollars in Iraqi reconstruction contracts to ICCB. Salama Markus was a USACE employee deployed to Contingency Operating Base Speicher in Tikrit, Iraq. Salama Markus was involved in the review and award process for lucrative Iraqi reconstruction contracts and the administration, oversight, and modification of those contracts after they were awarded.
In exchange for over $1 million in bribes, Salama Markus provided Al-Mulla and his conspirators with confidential USACE information concerning bids, independent government estimates, and the selection process. Al-Mulla and Nouri used this information to submit winning bids for millions of dollars in contracts. They also submitted bids on behalf of multiple companies, with Salama Markus' knowledge, for the same contracts.
For example, in March 2007, Salama Markus solicited a $350,000 bribe in exchange for helping ICCB obtain a $6.2 million contract to make certain infrastructure improvements at the Bayji Oil Refinery. On April 24, 2007, Salama Markus sent an email to Nouri telling Nouri the price to bid, on behalf of ICCB, for the contract, and on May 9, 2007, ICCB received the contract. On June 20, 2007, Al-Mulla received an email from Nouri asking to make a $200,000 partial bribe payment to Salama Markus and Salama Markus agreed. Al-Mulla subsequently instructed another ICCB employee to arrange for a $200,000 payment to be made to Salama Markus in Egypt.
On July 17, 2007, Al-Mulla received an email from Nouri detailing the bribes owed to Salama Markus and the expected official actions promised by Salama Markus. The outstanding bribe payments listed in the email included the remaining $150,000 bribe payment in connection with the Bayji Oil Contract, a $100,000 bribe payment for USACE contracts concerning the building of schools; and a $550,000 payment to ensure that ICCB obtained four additional contracts.
In July 2007, ICCB received the additional four contracts, worth approximately $7 million dollars, in exchange for the promised $550,000 bribe payment to Salama Markus. In August 2007, Al-Mulla met Nouri, Salama Markus, and another ICCB employee in Amman, Jordan. Al-Mulla authorized the payment of $750,000 cash to Salama Markus. And, at ICCB's office in Amman, an ICCB employee gave a bag containing $750,000 in cash to Salama Markus.
Salama Markus previously pleaded guilty to honest services wire fraud, money laundering and tax offenses and, on March 12, 2013, he was sentenced to 156 months in prison. On Oct. 1, 2018, Ahmed Nouri pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery and is awaiting sentencing.
The honest services wire fraud counts each carry a maximum potential penalty of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The conspiracy to commit bribery and defraud the U.S. government count carries a maximum potential penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Acting U.S. Attorney Honig credited special agents of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Homeland Security Investigations, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Jason J. Molina; the IRS-Criminal Investigation, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Michael Montanez; the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, under the direction of Special Agent in Charge Patrick J. Hegarty; and the U.S. Attorney's Office, under the direction of Supervisory Special Agent Thomas Mahoney, with the investigation leading to the charges.
The government is represented by Acting Principal Assistant U.S. Attorney Rahul Agarwal and Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine Lou of the Special Prosecutions Division in Newark.
The charges and allegations contained in the indictment are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
(Source: US Dept of Justice)