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Louis Berger has admitted to bribing officials in India and 3 other countries to secure contracts

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Washington: Louis Berger International Inc. (LBI), a New Jersey-based construction management company, has admitted that it bribed officials in India and three other countries to secure government construction management contracts.

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But neither the company which last week agreed to pay a $17.1 million criminal penalty to resolve charges of bribing officials in India, Indonesia, Vietnam, and Kuwait, nor the Justice Department has disclosed the names of the bribe takers.

Two of the company’s former executives also pleaded guilty to conspiracy and charges under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) in connection with the scheme.

Louis Berger has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement (DPA) and admitted its criminal conduct, including its conspiracy to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the FCPA, according to the Justice Department.

The company has also agreed to implement rigorous internal controls, to continue to cooperate fully with the department and to retain a compliance monitor for at least three years.

Richard Hirsch, 61, of Makaati, Philippines, and James McClung, 59, of Dubai, United Arab Emirates, each pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one substantive count of violating the FCPA.

Hirsch previously served as the Senior Vice President responsible for the company’s operations in Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, and Vietnam.

McClung previously served as the Senior Vice President responsible for the company’s operations in India and, subsequent to Hirsch, in Vietnam.

The sentencing hearings for Hirsch and McClung are scheduled for Nov 5.

According to the charging documents, from 1998 through 2010, the company and its employees, including Hirsch and McClung, orchestrated $3.9 million in bribe payments to foreign officials in various countries in order to secure government contracts.

To conceal the payments, the co-conspirators made payments under the guise of “commitment fees,” “counterpart per diems,” and other payments to third-party vendors.

In reality, the payments were intended to fund bribes to foreign officials who had awarded contracts to Louis Berger or who supervised the firm’s work on contracts.

A Louis Berger statement said “in total, the company self-identified and self-reported findings of misconduct in Vietnam, Indonesia, India, and Kuwait between 1998 and 2010 totaling $3.9 million in bribes.”

(IANS)

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UN Human Rights Accuses North Korean Government of Starving its People While Building up Military Power

U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival

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FILE - A man stands among sacks of wheat on the banks of Yalu River near the North Korean town of Sinuiju, opposite the Chinese border city of Dandong, January 29, 2014. VOA

The U.N. human rights office has accused the North Korean government of starving its people while building up its military power. It finds people are trapped in a system of endemic corruption and repression, which keeps them mired in lifelong poverty and deprivation.

The report is based on first-hand accounts of more than 200 escapees interviewed in South Korea during the past two years. Witnesses say North Korea’s social and economic system is based on the pervasive practice of bribing officials. U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival.

“The constant threat of arrest and prosecution provides State officials with a powerful means to extort money and other favors from people desperate to avoid detention in inhumane conditions,” she said. “In addition, the living conditions and treatment of detainees can also depend on the payment of bribes.”

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The report finds nearly 11 million people, or more than 43 percent of the population, are undernourished and in a perpetual state of hunger. Pixabay

The report finds nearly 11 million people, or more than 43 percent of the population, are undernourished and in a perpetual state of hunger. While people are scrounging around for food and other basic necessities, the report says huge resources continue to be spent on the military.

Official figures put the percentage of the national budget allocated to the military at between 14 and 16 percent. But Hurtado says estimates by non-governmental organizations believe that sum could be as high as 50 percent.

She tells VOA her agency acknowledges the importance of U.S. talks with North Korea in efforts to try to reduce its nuclear arsenal. But she says human rights have to be at the core of these negotiations.

poverty, north korea
U.N. human rights spokeswoman, Marta Hurtado, says bribery in North Korea has become an essential means of survival. Pixabay

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“It is clear that all the money, all the energy, all the brains that are used to focus on nuclear issues and nuclear development, if it would be focused on raising the standard of living of the population, the situation would be a different one,” she said. The report recommends drastic reforms in the criminal code and, especially in the establishment of the rule of law in North Korea.

In assessing the findings, Human Rights Chief Michele Bachelet says people must not be arrested, detained, prosecuted or subjected to extortion. This, simply for trying to acquire an adequate standard of living. (VOA)