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July 24, 2007 

Texas Grand Jury Indicts Former Executive of Texas-Based Company on FCPA and Money Laundering Charges

Last week a federal grand jury in Houston indicted Jason Edward Steph, a former executive of a subsidiary of Houston-based Willbros Group Inc., on charges of conspiring to make payments to Nigerian officials in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). Willbros is a publicly-traded company that provides construction, engineering and other services to the oil and gas industry.

The Grand Jury alleged that Mr. Steph conspired to make over $6 million in bribe payments to Nigerian officials in order to obtain and retain gas pipeline construction business from a joint venture controlled by the Nigerian state oil company. Mr. Steph was also charged with money laundering and conspiracy to commit money laundering based upon the international transfer of some of the bribe money. The indictment alleges that most of the payments were allegedly laundered through consultants, who typically received three percent of Willbros' contract revenue by wire transfer from Houston to a foreign bank. The consultants subsequently transferred some or all of the funds to Nigerian officials.

The maximum sentence for a charge of conspiring to violate the FCPA is five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, or twice the gross gain or loss. Each of the money laundering charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $500,000 or twice the value of the funds involved in the transfer, whichever is greater.

This is the second FCPA prosecution of a Willbros executive arising from Willbros' overseas operations. In September 2006, Jim Bob Brown, who is named as a co-conspirator in the Steph indictment, pled guilty to violating the FCPA by conspiring with others to bribe Nigerian and Ecuadorian officials. Mr. Brown also settled civil charges brought by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Mr. Brown has not yet been sentenced.

A copy of the indictment can be found at the following link.




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