US moves to seize Singapore funds linked to bribery scandal

January 10, 2009
Singapore Democrats

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AFP

The United States moved Friday to seize Singapore-based funds alleged linked a wide-ranging conspiracy to bribe Bangladesh officials over projects involving German and Chinese firms.

The forfeiture action was filed on Thursday in a US District Court in Washington against funds worth three million dollars in Singapore held by multiple account holders, assistant attorney general Matthew Friedrich said.

The money was allegedly proceeds of a conspiracy to bribe public officials in Bangladesh and family members in connection with projects awarded by the Bangladesh government to German industrial giant Siemens and China Harbor Engineering Company, according to the US Justice Department.

The forfeiture complaint related primarily to alleged bribes paid to Arafat Rahman Koko, 36, the youngest son of ex-Bangladesh premier Khaleda Zia, the department said in a statement.

“This action shows the lengths to which US law enforcement will go to recover the proceeds of foreign corruption, including acts of bribery and money laundering,” Friedrich said.

Singaporean authorities had already frozen assets worth 1.6 million dollars belonging to Koko, the head of Bangladesh’s Anti-Corruption Commission said last month, saying Dhaka had asked Singapore to investigate his assets.

According to the US forfeiture complaint, the majority of funds in Koko’s account were traceable to bribes allegedly received in connection with the China Harbor project to build a new mooring containment terminal at Bangladesh’s Chittagong port.

Siemens Bangladesh pleaded guilty last month that it made corrupt payments of at least 5.3 million dollars through purported business consultants to various Bangladeshi officials in exchange for “favorable” treatment during the bidding process on a mobile telephone project.

At least one payment to each of these purported consultants was paid from a US bank account, the Justice Department said.

Based on the forfeiture complaint, payments from Siemens and China Harbor flowed through financial institutions in the United States before they were deposited in accounts in Singapore, thereby subjecting them to US jurisdiction.

Money laundering laws in the United States cover financial transactions that flow through the United States involving proceeds of foreign offenses, including foreign bribery and extortion.

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