White-Collar Crime

General counsel takes plea in $39M foreign bribery case

A U.S. lawyer who formerly served as general counsel to an oil and gas company based in the Virgin Islands has pleaded guilty and two former top executives face charges in a federal foreign bribery case made public this week.

Attorney Gregory Weisman, 42, pleaded guilty on Nov. 8 in federal court in Camden, N.J., to a single count of conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, according to Bloomberg, Corporate Crime Reporter and the Wall Street Journal (sub. req.).

Two former CEOs of PetroTiger Ltd. were charged Nov. 8. They are Joseph Sigelman, 42, who was a banker with Goldman Sachs Group Inc. before joining the company, and Knut Hammarskjold, 42. Both face conspiracy charges as well as counts alleging substantive violations of the FCPA. Sigelman was arrested Jan. 3 in the Philippines and appeared at a bail hearing today in Guam, Bloomberg reports; and Hammarskjold was arrested Nov. 20 and released on $700,000 bail Dec. 4, according to court records. Lawyers for the co-CEOs could not be located, the WSJ says. If convicted, they could face maximum prison sentences of 20 years or more.

The defendants are accused of paying more than $300,000 in bribes from a U.S. bank account under the guise of reimbursement for purported management consultant work, in an effort to obtain a $39.6 million contract from a state-controlled oil company in Colombia. A Department of Justice press release provides further details.

“Mr. Weisman has fully accepted responsibility for his role in this matter and looks forward to the opportunity to move on,” his lawyer, Michael Schwartz of Pepper Hamilton, told Bloomberg. His client faces a maximum prison term of five years when he is sentenced.

Weisman is general counsel of the Atlantic, Gulf & Pacific Company of Manila Inc., according to a biography on the company’s website. It also says that he previously worked at Dechert and Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom, after earning his law degree at the University of Pennsylvania and working on the law review there.

“Bribery of public officials, whether at home or abroad, corrupts business opportunity and undermines trust in government,” said U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman of New Jersey in a written statement provided to Bloomberg. “The under-the-table deals alleged in today’s charges are not an acceptable way of doing business.”

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