Global Investigations Review - The law and practice of international investigations


Monday, 14 September 2020

Switzerland reaches agreement to return Karimova assets to Uzbekistan

The Swiss government announced on 11 September that it has signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the government of Uzbekistan to return $131 million of seized funds linked to the daughter of Uzbekistan’s former president, Gulnara Karimova. 

The MOU sets out the terms under which Switzerland will transfer the funds back to Uzbekistan, including an assurance that the money will be used to “improve the living conditions of the people of Uzbekistan”.

The agreement describes the $131 million payment as a “first instalment” to be followed by a further $650 million in assets that are currently frozen in Switzerland.

The Financial Times reported in August that a body within the Swiss Office of the Attorney General is reviewing allegations that former Attorney General Michael Lauber tried to broker an illegal deal to release these frozen funds.

Canadian court seizes assets of former SNC Lavalin executive

Quebec’s superior court has seized more than C$4 million (US$3 million) in assets belonging to former SNC-Lavalin vice president Sami Bebawi, according to a local outlet

The seized assets reportedly include real estate in Canada and the US.

Judge Guy Cournoyer sentenced Bebawi to eight-and-a-half years in prison in January following his conviction for bribery and laundering the proceeds of crime in a scheme that saw C$48 million (US$36.96 million) paid to Libyan officials in exchange for construction contracts between 2001 and 2011.

The court has reportedly granted prosecutors’ request to issue a C$4.2 million (US$3.2 million) confiscation order and a C$24 million (US$18.2 million) fine against Bebawi.

Bebawi is appealing against his conviction.

Volkswagen concludes Dieselgate monitorship

German car manufacturer Volkswagen announced on 14 September that it has successfully completed its compliance monitorship as part of a 2017 settlement with US authorities over its use of emissions cheating devices in its vehicles. 

The company’s monitor, Larry Thompson at Finch McCranie in Atlanta, said that Volkswagen had fulfilled its obligations under the terms of the settlement, which included strengthening its corporate compliance framework, enhancing risk management and expanding its whistleblower protection programme, among other requirements.  Thompson found VW is now a stronger company than it was three years ago. 

Volkswagen agreed to pay $4.3 billion to US authorities after it admitted to violating the Clean Air Act and to defrauding its customers and the US by cheating emissions tests.

UK FCA drops half its criminal money laundering investigations

The UK Financial Conduct Authority has dropped seven out of 14 criminal investigations into money laundering since January, according to an FOI request by Eversheds Sutherland reported by the Financial Times.

The agency closed five single-track criminal investigations and two dual-track cases. The FCA now has one single-track criminal probe and six dual-track cases on its books. 

The news comes after the FCA’s director of enforcement, Mark Steward, previously said that the agency would make full use of its criminal powers to pursue money laundering violations, when speaking at GIR Live London in April 2019. He added at the time that he expected such cases would remain “reasonably exceptional”.

Date set for Airbus GPT plea hearing

Airbus subsidiary GPT Special Project Management and three individuals are scheduled to appear at Southwark Crown Court on 12 October to enter pleas in a high-profile bribery case, according to a verbal order given at the Westminster Magistrates Court on 14 September.

The UK Serious Fraud Office (SFO) announced on 30 July that it had charged the company with corruption in connection to a Saudi Arabian military communications contract.

The SFO also charged the company’s former managing director, Jeff Cook, who was also formerly employed at the UK Ministry of Defence, with corruption and misconduct in public office. Another individual, Terence Dorothy, has been charged with aiding and abetting that offence.

John Mason, the chief financial officer of two GPT subcontractors, has been charged with corruption.

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