Middleman Who Lied About Being an Agent of a Foreign Official Sentenced to 3 ½ Years in Prison for Role in Foreign Bribery Scheme Involving $800 Million International Real Estate Deal

Thursday, October 5, 2017

The middleman in a foreign bribery scheme who falsely held himself out as an agent of a foreign official was sentenced today to 42 months in prison for each count, to run concurrently, for his role in a scheme to bribe a foreign official in the Middle East to land a real estate deal, and to defrauding his co-schemers.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office made the announcement.

Malcom Harris, 53, of New York City, was sentenced by U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos of the Southern District of New York.  Harris pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering on June 21.

According to admissions made in connection with Harris’s plea, Harris participated in a corrupt scheme to pay bribes to a foreign official in a country in the Middle East in order to facilitate the sale by South Korean construction company Keangnam Enterprises Co., Ltd., (Keangnam) of a commercial building known as Landmark 72 in Hanoi, Vietnam, to the Middle Eastern country’s sovereign wealth fund.  According to the indictment, the building sale was valued at $800 million, and purported bribe would total $2.5 million.

In connection with his guilty plea, Harris admitted that, from on or about March 2013 to on or about March 2015, he wrongfully obtained $500,000 from his co-defendants by falsely holding himself out as an agent of a foreign official in text messages and emails.  Harris admitted directing the $500,000 to be deposited into an account in the name of Muse Creative Consulting, but which Harris actually controlled.  Thereafter, Harris used the illegally obtained money to engage in transactions exceeding $10,000, he admitted.

Harris was charged in a December 2016 indictment along with codefendants Joo Hyun Bahn aka Dennis Bahn (Bahn) and Ban Ki Sang (Ban).  According to the indictment, during this time, Ban was a senior executive at Keangnam, and allegedly convinced Keangnam to hire his son Bahn, who worked as a broker at a commercial real estate firm in Manhattan, to secure an investor for Landmark 72.

Bahn and Ban are awaiting trial.  The charges and allegations contained in an indictment are only accusations.  The defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI’s International Corruption Squad in New York City investigated the case.  In 2015, the FBI formed International Corruption Squads across the country to address national and international implications of foreign corruption.  Trial Attorney Dennis R. Kihm of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel S. Noble of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case.  The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance in this matter.

The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters.  Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.

Chairman of a Macau Real Estate Development Company Convicted on All Counts for Role in Scheme to Bribe United Nations Ambassadors to Build a Multi-Billion Dollar Conference Center

Friday, July 28, 2017

Yesterday, a federal jury convicted the chairman of a real estate development company for his role in a scheme to bribe United Nations ambassadors to obtain support to build a conference center in Macau that would host, among other events, the annual United Nations Global South-South Development Expo.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim of the Southern District of New York, Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney, Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office and Chief Don Fort of Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation (IRS-CI) made the announcement.

After a four week trial, Ng Lap Seng, a/k/a “David Ng,” 69, of Macau, China, was convicted of two counts of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, one count of paying bribes and gratuities, one count of money laundering and two counts of conspiracy. No sentencing date has been set.

“The defendant’s corrupt activities were all the more egregious and shameful as he tried to hide his bribes as philanthropy,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Blanco. “Corruption is a disease that has a corrosive effect on the rule of law everywhere and harms good people throughout the world. The Department is steadfast in its mission to aggressively investigate and prosecute bribery in all its forms, and vigorously protect the rule of law.”

“In his unbridled pursuit of even greater personal fortune, billionaire Ng Lap Seng corrupted the highest levels of the United Nations,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Kim. “Through bribes and no show jobs, Ng turned leaders of the league of nations into his private band of profiteers. Ng’s journey from a Macau real estate mogul to convicted felon should serve as a cautionary tale to all tempted to follow his path. If you bring corruption to New York – whether to the State Capitol in Albany or to the halls of the U.N. General Assembly – your journey may very well end in a Manhattan federal courtroom, with a unanimous jury announcing your guilt.”

“Ng’s bribery scheme began at the intersection where business and intergovernmental matters overlap,” said Assistant Director in Charge Sweeney, Jr. He may have thought this was a good place to start, but it’s doubtful this was the ending he had in mind. This case is nothing more than an example of corruption in its purest form, and we’ve proven once again that no individual or organization is powerful enough to be immune from prosecution.”

“Today’s conviction is a result of untangling a global labyrinth of complex financial transactions used by Seng to facilitate bribes to foreign officials,” said Chief Fort. “IRS-CI has become a trusted leader in pursuit of those who use corruption as their business model to circumvent the law. CI is committed to maintaining fair competition, free of corrupt practices, through a dynamic synthesis of global teamwork and our robust financial investigative talents.”

According to the evidence presented at trial, Ng, the chairman of the Sun Kian Ip Group, conspired with and paid bribes to Francis Lorenzo, a former UN Ambassador from the Dominican Republic, and John W. Ashe, the late former Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda to the UN and the 68th President of the UN General Assembly (“UNGA”). With the assistance of Jeff C. Yin, an accountant and co-conspirator who worked with Ng and others and previously pleaded guilty, Ng orchestrated a scheme with the principal objective of obtaining the formal support of the UN for a multi-billion dollar facility that Ng hoped to build in Macau using the Sun Kian Ip Group (the “Macau Conference Center”). Ng wanted the Macau Conference Center to serve as a location for meetings, discussions, forums, and other events associated with the UN. In particular, he wanted it to serve as the permanent home of the annual “Global South-South Development Expo,” which is run by the UN Office for South-South Cooperation, and is hosted in a different country or city every year.

The trial evidence further showed that Ng bribed Ambassador Ashe and Ambassador Lorenzo (together, the “Ambassadors”) in exchange for their agreement to use their official positions to advance Ng’s interest in obtaining formal UN support for the Macau Conference Center. As the evidence demonstrated at trial, Ng paid the Ambassadors in a variety of forms. For example, Ng appointed Ambassador Lorenzo as the President of South-South News, a New York-based organization — funded by Ng — which described itself as a media platform dedicated to advancing the implementation of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, a set of philanthropic goals. Ng provided bribe payments to Ambassador Lorenzo through South-South News by transmitting payments from Macau to a company in the Dominican Republic affiliated with Ambassador Lorenzo’s brother (the “Dominican Company”). Through South-South News, Ng also made payments to Ambassador Ashe, including to Ambassador Ashe’s wife, who was paid in her capacity as a “consultant” to South-South News, and to an account that Ambassador Ashe had established, purportedly to raise money for his role as President of UNGA. Ng also provided bribes through cash and wire payments to the Ambassadors.

According to the trial evidence, one of the actions that the Ambassadors took in exchange for bribe payments, to advance Ng’s objectives, was to submit an official document to the then-UN Secretary-General in support of the Macau Conference Center (the “UN Document”). The UN Document claimed that there was a need to build the Macau Conference Center to support the UN’s global development goals. Ambassador Ashe, aided by Ambassador Lorenzo, initially submitted the UN Document to the UNGA in or about late February 2012. More than a year later, at Ng’s behest, the Ambassadors revised the UN Document to refer specifically to Ng’s company, the Sun Kian Ip Group, as a partner in the Macau Conference Center project. The UN Document requested that the Secretary-General circulate the UN Document “as a document of the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly,” under a specific item of the official UNGA agenda. The Secretary-General followed this request, thereby making the UN Document an official part of the UNGA record.

Five other defendants have been charged in this matter. Co-conspirators Lorenzo, Yin and Heidi Hong Piao have pleaded guilty and are awaiting sentencing. Shiwei Yan has pleaded and was sentenced to 20 months in prison. Co-defendant Ashe passed away in 2016 and the charges against him were dismissed.

This case was investigated by the FBI and IRS-CI. Trial Attorney David A. Last of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorneys Daniel C. Richenthal, Janis M. Echenberg and Douglas S. Zolkind of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case.

The Criminal Division’s Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/fcpa.

Brooklyn Pharmacy Owner/Operator Charged With Defrauding Medicare And Medicaid Programs Of Approximately $9 Million

Monday, July 10, 2017

Joon H. Kim, the Acting United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, William F. Sweeney Jr., the Assistant Director-in-Charge of the New York Office of the New York Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (“FBI”), Scott J. Lampert, Special Agent in Charge of the New York Regional Office for the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Inspector General (“HHS-OIG”), and Dennis Rosen, Inspector General of the New York State Office of the Medicaid Inspector General (“OMIG”), announced today the unsealing of a criminal Complaint charging defendant SUNITA KUMAR with operating a health care fraud scheme utilizing two pharmacies in Brooklyn, New York, through which KUMAR submitted approximately $9 million in fraudulent claims to Medicaid and Medicare. KUMAR was arrested this morning and was presented in Manhattan federal court today before U.S. Magistrate Judge Andrew J. Peck.

Manhattan Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim said: “As alleged, Sunita Kumar defrauded Medicare and Medicaid, public programs to assist the indigent and the elderly, by submitting $9 million in fraudulent claims. She allegedly did so by inducing people to surrender their own prescriptions and forego their medications in exchange for kickbacks. Medicare and Medicaid provide critical health care for some of our most vulnerable citizens. Together with our law enforcement partners, we will aggressively pursue those who allegedly use public programs as a vehicle for illegal personal profit.”

FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said: “Exploiting our federal and state health care programs places the economy at a significant disadvantage and threatens the stability of the health care industry overall. Because there’s no single, clearly identifiable victim, the public often finds these schemes incomparable to other, more explicit frauds. But everyone deserves to know that health care fraud alone costs this country tens of billions of dollars a year, not to mention the obvious health safety risks it presents. We will continue to confront this type of crime, and root it out, until it no longer exists.”

HHS-OIG Special Agent-in-Charge Scott J. Lampert said: “Prescription drug scams, such as the one alleged in this case, work to undermine our nation’s health care system. Today’s arrest coordinated with our law enforcement partners serve as a stern warning to pharmacy owners tempted to plunder government health programs meant to care for our most vulnerable citizens.”

Medicaid Inspector General Dennis Rosen said: “Exploiting the Medicaid program for personal gain by preying upon New York’s most-vulnerable populations is reprehensible. We will continue to work closely with our federal, state and local partners to hold wrongdoers fully accountable and protect the integrity of the Medicaid program.”

According to the allegations contained in the Complaint[1]:

KUMAR – while owning one pharmacy herself and operating a second pharmacy, both located in Brooklyn, New York – conducted a multimillion-dollar scheme to defraud Medicare and Medicaid programs by fraudulently seeking reimbursements for prescription drugs. Specifically, KUMAR engaged in a scheme to obtain prescriptions for medications, for which her pharmacies billed and received reimbursement from Medicare and Medicaid, but which she did not actually dispense to customers. From in or about January 2015 through in or about December 2016, KUMAR obtained approximately $9 million in reimbursements from Medicare and Medicaid for prescription drugs that her pharmacies never actually dispensed. KUMAR defrauded Medicare and Medicaid into providing her pharmacies with these reimbursements by obtaining prescriptions from other individuals, who were willing to forego delivery of the medications in exchange for a share of the reimbursed proceeds, in the form of kickbacks paid by KUMAR.

* * *

KUMAR, 54, of Old Westbury, New York, is charged with one count of health care fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, and one count of paying illegal remuneration in the form of kickbacks, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only, as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

Mr. Kim praised the investigative work of the FBI, HHS-OIG, and OMIG.

The case is being prosecuted by the Office’s Complex Frauds and Cybercrime Unit. Assistant United States Attorneys Christopher J. DiMase and Sarah E. Paul are in charge of the prosecution.

The charges contained in the Complaint are merely accusations, and the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.


[1] As the introductory phase signifies, the entirety of the text of the Complaint, and the description of the Complaint set forth herein, constitute only allegations, and every fact described should be treated as an allegation.

Guilty Plea in Bribery Scheme Involving $800 Million Vietnamese Real Estate Deal

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Defendant Double-Crossed His Clients and Stole a $500,000 Bribe Intended to Influence a South Korean Company’s Sale of the Landmark 72 Building in Hanoi, Vietnam

The middleman in a foreign bribery scheme pleaded guilty today to wire fraud and money laundering charges for his role in a scheme to bribe a foreign official in the Middle East to land a real estate deal, and to defrauding his co-schemers.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Kenneth A. Blanco of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Joon H. Kim for the Southern District of New York, and Assistant Director in Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. of the FBI’s New York Field Office made the announcement.

Malcolm Harris pleaded guilty to wire fraud and money laundering charges arising from his role as a middleman in a corrupt scheme to pay millions of dollars in bribes to a foreign official (“Foreign Official-1”) of a country in the Middle East (“Country-1”). The bribes were intended to facilitate the sale by South Korean construction company Keangnam Enterprises Co., Ltd. (“Keangnam”) of a 72-story commercial building known as Landmark 72 in Hanoi, Vietnam, to Country-1’s sovereign wealth fund (the “Fund”) for $800 million. Instead of paying an initial $500,000 bribe to Foreign Official-1 as he had promised, Harris simply pocketed the money and spent it on himself. Harris pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Edgardo Ramos who is scheduled to sentence Harris on September 27.

According to the allegations contained in the Indictment to which Harris pleaded guilty, and statements made during the plea and other court proceedings:

From in or about March 2013 through in or about May 2015, Harris co-defendants Joo Hyun Bahn, a/k/a “Dennis Bahn” (“Bahn”) and his father Ban Ki Sang (“Ban”) engaged in an international conspiracy to bribe Foreign Official-1 in connection with the attempted $800 million sale of a building complex in Hanoi, Vietnam, known as Landmark 72.

During this time, Ban was a senior executive at Keangnam, a South Korean construction company that built and owned Landmark 72. Ban convinced Keangnam to hire his son Bahn, who worked as a broker at a commercial real estate firm in Manhattan, to secure an investor for Landmark 72.

Instead of obtaining financing through legitimate channels, Bahn and Ban engaged in a corrupt scheme to pay bribes to Foreign Official-1, through Harris, who held himself out as an agent of Foreign Official-1, to induce Foreign Official-1 to use his influence to convince the Fund to acquire Landmark 72 for approximately $800 million. In furtherance of the scheme, Harris sent Bahn numerous emails purportedly sent by Foreign Official-1 and bearing Foreign Official-1’s name. In or about April 2014, following communications with Harris, Bahn and Ban agreed to pay, through Harris, a $500,000 upfront bribe and a $2,000,000 bribe upon the close of the sale of Landmark 72 to Foreign Official-1 on behalf of Keangnam.

Unbeknownst to Bahn or Ban, however, Harris did not have the claimed relationship with Foreign Official-1 and did not intend to pay the bribe money to Foreign Official-1. Instead, Harris simply stole the $500,000 upfront bribe arranged by Bahn and Ban, which Harris then spent on lavish personal expenses, including rent for a luxury penthouse apartment in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.

*                *                *

Harris, 53, of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud, which carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and one count of conducting monetary transactions in illicit funds, which carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. The maximum potential sentences are prescribed by Congress and are provided here for informational purposes only as any sentencing of the defendant will be determined by the judge.

The case against Bahn is pending before Judge Ramos, and Ban is a fugitive believed to be residing in South Korea. All defendants are presumed innocent unless and until convicted beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.

The FBI’s International Corruption Squad in New York City investigated the case. In 2015, the FBI formed International Corruption Squads across the country to address national and international implications of foreign corruption. Trial Attorney Dennis R. Kihm of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Daniel S. Noble of the Southern District of New York are prosecuting the case. The Criminal Division’s Office of International Affairs also provided substantial assistance in this matter.

The Fraud Section is responsible for investigating and prosecuting all FCPA matters. Additional information about the Justice Department’s FCPA enforcement efforts can be found at www.justice.gov/criminal-fraud/foreign-corrupt-practices-act.