Feds Charge French Citizen with Obstructing FCPA Investigation

Federal officials have charged Frederick Cilins — a French citizen — with obstructing a grand jury investigation concerning alleged bribes paid for certain mining rights in the Republic of Guinea.

Cilins was arrested in Jacksonville, Florida, and was presented in federal court in Jacksonville earlier this week.

He was detained pending a detention hearing scheduled for April 18, 2013.

“A grand jury can never learn the truth, and cannot prevail, where documents are intentionally destroyed and testimony is tainted by lies,” said Manhattan U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara. “Frederic Cilins attempted to obstruct a significant investigation by corrupting evidence and testimony in precisely those ways. Cilins now must answer to the system he allegedly tried to obstruct.”

Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said that the Department of Justice “considers efforts to obstruct grand jury and FBI investigations to be a serious threat to the due administration of justice.”

“The Department will actively prosecute those found to be subverting our efforts to fight corruption,” she said.

Since January 2013, a federal grand jury sitting in the Southern District of New York has been conducting a criminal investigation into potential violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) and money laundering related to a scheme in which a mining company allegedly paid bribes to officials of a former governmental regime of the Republic of Guinea to win valuable mining concessions in the Simandou region of Guinea.

The investigation is focused on, among other things, at least one individual who is a “domestic concern” within the meaning of the FCPA and also concerns certain proceeds that were wired to or through the Southern District of New York.

Cilins is a French citizen who has identified himself as a representative of the company.

Federal officials alleged that since March 2013, Cilins has repeatedly attempted to obstruct the grand jury investigation in conversations and meetings he has had with a cooperating witness — the former wife of a now deceased high-ranking official in Guinea.

Among other things, Cilins offered to pay the cooperating witness as much as $5 million if, in exchange, the witness would: provide certain documents that Cilins knew had been requested from the witness by special agents of the FBI so that he could destroy them — and sign an affidavit containing numerous false statements regarding matters within the scope of the grand jury investigation.

The documents that Cilins sought to destroy included original copies of contracts between the company and its affiliates and the witness, whose husband then held an office in Guinea that allowed him to influence the award of mining concessions.

Federal officials alleged that the contracts reflect an alleged corrupt deal in which the company offered to pay the witness’ company millions of dollars, among other benefits, with the understanding that, in exchange for these payments, the witness’ husband would undertake official action to help the company with respect to certain valuable mining concessions the company sought in the Simandou Region in Guinea.

In at least one meeting with the witness, which was recorded, when Cilins learned that a

U.S. grand jury was investigating the company’s conduct, Cilins repeatedly said that the documents in the witness’ possession needed to be destroyed “urgently.”

Cilins offered to pay the witness $200,000 and another $800,000 at a later date.

If the case was completed, and the company did not lose its business in Guinea, Cilins offered to pay the witness $5 million.

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