On November 7, 2017, federal authorities announced criminal charges against five individuals in connection with an alleged foreign bribery scheme involving Rolls-Royce Plc. (“Rolls-Royce”) and its U.S.-based subsidiary. According to the DOJ’s press release and related court filings, Petros Contoguris, the founder and CEO of Gravitas & Cie. International Ltd. (“Gravitas”), former Rolls-Royce employees James Finley, Keith Barnett, and Aloysius Zuurhout, and international engineering consulting firm executive Andreas Kohler conspired to bribe foreign officials in order to secure business for U.S.-based Rolls-Royce Energy Systems Inc. (“RRESI”). Authorities maintain Contoguris, working with Kohler and other employees of an international engineering consulting firm (the “Technical Advisor”), devised a scheme with Rolls-Royce executives and employees, including Finley, Barnett, and Zuurhout, to pay kickbacks to Technical Advisor employees and bribes to foreign officials in exchange for assistance in securing contracts with an entity building a gas pipeline between China and Central Asia (Asia Gas Pipeline LLP, or “AGP”). According to court filings, the co-conspirators disguised these payments as commissions owed to Gravitas, a portion of which was then passed on by Contoguris to Technical Advisor employees with the understanding that the funds would be shared with a foreign official.
Contoguris has been charged by indictment with one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, one count of conspiracy to launder money, seven counts of violating the FCPA, and 10 counts of money laundering. Finley has pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA before the Honorable Edmund A. Sargus of the Southern District of Ohio. Zuurhout, Kohler, and Barnett have each pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA before Chief Judge Sargus. As part of their guilty pleas, Finley, Barnett, and Zuurhout admitted to participating in a conspiracy dating as far back as 1999 to engage advisors willing to funnel purported commission payments from Rolls-Royce to foreign officials in several countries. The recently announced individual charges follow the January 17, 2017 announcement of a deferred prosecution agreement under which Rolls-Royce agreed to pay more than $800 million in penalties to resolve related investigations undertaken by U.S., U.K., and Brazilian authorities. U.S. v. Barnett, 16-cr-00248 (S.D. Ohio); U.S. v. Contoguris, 17-cr-00233 (S.D. Ohio); U.S. v. Finley, 17-cr-00160 (S.D. Ohio); U.S. v. Kohler, 17-cr-00113 (S.D. Ohio); U.S. v. Zuurhout, 17-cr-00122 (S.D. Ohio); U.S. v. Rolls-Royce Plc., 16-cr-00247 (S.D. Ohio)