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A former government official in Thailand and her daughter have moved to dismiss criminal charges tied to a Hollywood couple who were convicted as part of a bribery scheme, calling the indictment "a novel prosecutorial approach" and a "case of first impression."

Juthamas Siriwan, a former senior official with the Tourism Authority of Thailand, a government agency, and her daughter, Jittisopa Siriwan, were charged in 2009 with violating the U.S. Money Laundering Control Act and Thailand’s bribery laws.

"Defendants have shown that the Government’s novel and untested money laundering theory, as applied to the facts alleged, cannot be sustained," wrote David Fink, a partner in the Los Angeles office of Kelley Drye & Warren, who represents the Siriwans, in a motion to dismiss filed on Aug. 19.

The government’s response is due on Sept. 8, and a hearing on the motion is scheduled for Oct. 20. Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney declined to comment.

The indictment alleged that Gerald Green, a producer in Beverly Hills, Calif., whose film credits include Warner Herzog’s Rescue Dawn, and his wife, Patricia Green, paid $1.8 million to receive nearly $14 million from 2002 through 2007 from the tourism authority and the related Thailand Privilege Card Co., including a contract to manage the Bangkok International Film Festival.

Juthamas Siriwan was a senior official of the authority until 2006, and her daughter was an employee of Thailand Privilege. According to the indictment, the Greens sent the bribes to bank accounts held in the name of Jittisopa Siriwan or an unnamed friend.

In 2009, a federal jury in Los Angeles convicted the Greens under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. The case was the first involving FCPA charges against an individual in the entertainment business. Each was sentenced to six months in prison plus six months’ home confinement. They were released in May.

The Siriwans moved to dismiss the charges against them and stay extradition proceedings until the dismissal motion is decided. Federal prosecutors opposed the move, but U.S. District Judge George Wu in Los Angeles issued a tentative order on July 28 staying the extradition proceedings, citing a pending investigation in Thailand of the Siriwans and the fact that neither defendant had fled to Thailand to escape charges in U.S. courts.

Wu’s order contrasted with a ruling on April 4 by U.S. District Judge James Selna in another FCPA case. Selna denied a motion by South Korean citizen Han Yong Kim to make a special appearance to argue for dismissal of charges against him. The government has been seeking to extradite him.

In the Siriwans’ case, prosecutors agreed to forgo extradition proceedings on Aug. 1.

In their motion to dismiss, the Siriwans said federal prosecutors were trying to sidestep a prohibition in the FCPA on criminalizing a foreign public official’s receipt of a bribe. In charging the Siriwans with money laundering, prosecutors have failed to identify a specific act other than that the defendants had promoted the alleged bribes, they argued.

"The government cannot make each wire transfer at issue pull double duty, serving both as an alleged bribe payment and a monetary transaction designed ‘to promote the carrying on of’ the very same bribe," their attorneys wrote.

Also, they continued, the section of the money-laundering law under which the Siriwans were charged was not intended to be used outside the United States, and that charges against a public official in Thailand under that country’s penal code should be brought by Thailand, not the United States.

In previously filed court documents, Jonathan Lopez, a senior trial attorney in the fraud section of the Justice Department’s criminal division in Washington and lead prosecutor in the case, disputed the novelty of the charges: "The prohibition against charging foreign officials with FCPA offenses does not give foreign officials a free pass to commit other, entirely separate, crimes," he wrote.

Amanda Bronstad can be contacted at [email protected].

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