The Justice Department’s aggressive use of undercover tactics in foreign bribery cases will be tested this month with the criminal prosecution of Joseph Sigelman, an outsourcing wunderkind accused of paying off a Colombian oil industry official. Lawyers made opening arguments on Tuesday.
Federal prosecutors allege that Sigelman, who in the early 2000s won fame and fortune with a back-office logistics business in India, later tried to get a Colombian oil services startup aloft by bribing an official with Ecopetrol, the Colombian national oil company. Charged with violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), the main U.S. federal law against overseas bribery, Sigelman denies that he saw the $330,500 payment as a bribe, or even that he understood that the recipient worked directly for Ecopetrol.
The 43-year-old American entrepreneur also denies a separate federal charge that he arranged to receive $400,000 in kickbacks in connection with an acquisition by PetroTiger, the oil-services company he started in 2008 and worked for as co-chief executive officer until he was fired by the board in 2011.
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