4 former BizJet execs charged with foreign bribery

AP News
Posted: Apr 05, 2013 9:50 PM

Federal charges unsealed Friday accuse four former Tulsa, Okla.-based BizJet International Sales and Support Inc. executives of engaging in a bribery scheme to generate aircraft maintenance business in Latin America.

Two of the men accused pleaded guilty in January and two others, who officials believe to be out of the country, have not been arrested yet.

BizJet cooperated with authorities and entered into a deferred prosecution agreement that had the company pay a penalty of $11.8 million. Prosecutors credited the company with making voluntary disclosures and providing "extraordinary cooperation."

A BizJet spokesman didn't immediately return phone messages or an emailed request for comment. The Justice Department announced after business hours on Friday that the case had been unsealed.

Former BizJet President and CEO Bernd Kowalewski and ex-sales manager Jald Jensen were indicted Jan. 5 for conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and conspiracy to launder money. They're also charged with violating the act and money laundering. The indictment was unsealed Friday and the Justice Department said the men are believed to be abroad and had not been arrested.

Two former BizJet vice presidents, Peter DuBois and Neal Uhl, pleaded guilty Jan. 5 to bills of information in lieu of indictment. The guilty pleas were unsealed Friday, which is when the men were sentenced in federal court in Tulsa.

DuBois pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and one count of violating the act. Uhl pleaded guilty to a single count of conspiracy to violate the corrupt practices act.

U.S. District Judge Gregory K. Frizzell sentenced DuBois and Uhl to eight months of home detention each and probation, citing cooperation with authorities by both men.

Prosecutors said DuBois could have been sentenced to up to 10 years in prison and Uhl faced five years in prison.

The indictment, which followed an FBI investigation, accuses the former BizJet executives of bribing government officials in Brazil, Mexico and Panama to secure maintenance contracts.

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Acting Assistant Attorney General Mythili Raman said in a prepared statement that the executives "authorized and caused hundreds of thousands of dollars to be paid directly and indirectly to ranking military officials in various foreign countries."

FBI Assistant Director in Charge Valerie Parlave said businesses have an obligation to "maintain a fair and competitive international market."

Prosecutors allege the defendants paid bribes directly to foreign officials and, in some instances, moved bribe money through a shell company, Avionica International & Associates Inc., owned and operated by Jensen.

Avionica allegedly portrayed itself as a provider of aircraft maintenance brokerage services but instead existed to launder bribe money. Avionica listed a physical address identical to Jensen's personal residence in Van Nuys, Calif.

BizJet is a U.S.-based subsidiary of Lufthansa Technik AG.