Jeffery Chow, who worked 25 years in Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd.’s legal department, admitted to federal prosecutors in Brooklyn that he wrote the contracts his company used for paying bribes in Brazil.
“I should have refused to draft the contract that we used for paying bribes and I should have resigned from Keppel,” Chow, 59, told a federal magistrate judge in the Eastern District of New York during his plea hearing last August, according to a transcript of the hearing that was recently unsealed in the United States, in the matter of United States v. John Doe.
“Instead, I discussed the economic terms of the contracts with my seniors at Keppel and acting in agreement with my seniors, and others at Keppel, I drafted the contracts and made sure that they were executed,” he told the judge.
Chow, who could not be reached for comment, cooperated with the U.S. Department of Justice in its case against Singapore-based Keppel and its wholly owned U.S. subsidiary, Keppel Offshore & Marine USA Inc., as part of a plea agreement. His plea deal and a transcript of his hearing remarks were unsealed on Dec. 22, the same day Keppel settled its Foreign Corrupt Practices Act case with the United States, Singapore and Brazil for over $422 million.
It was the second largest U.S. FCPA settlement of 2017, and the DOJ’s first coordinated FCPA resolution with Singapore. The DOJ said Singapore received 50 percent of the financial penalty, and the United States and Brazil each received 25 percent.
Keppel signed a deferred prosecution agreement while its Houston subsidiary, Keppel Offshore & Marine USA, pleaded guilty to one criminal count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA. Keppel was represented by Sean Hecker and David O’Neil of Debevoise & Plimpton in U.S. district court in Brooklyn.
According to the court documents, Keppel paid $55 million in bribes between 2001 and 2014 through a consultant to Petrobras, a Brazilian state-owned oil company. The DOJ alleged some of the bribe money went to the then-governing political party and politicians in Brazil.
Keppel Corp. Ltd. confirmed in a Dec. 23 statement that it had reached a global resolution with criminal authorities in the United States, Brazil and Singapore in relation to corrupt payments made by its former agent in Brazil.
In the statement, Dr. Lee Boon Yang, chairman of Keppel Corp., said, “Integrity is one of Keppel’s core values. We do not and will not tolerate any illegal activity in the conduct of our business. We regret and are deeply disappointed by the actions that we now know to have taken place at the group’s offshore and marine business in Brazil from around 2001 to 2014″ and ”since the allegations emerged, we have moved quickly and decisively to put in place stricter controls and embedded best practices across the group to ensure that such unacceptable behavior will not be repeated.”
In the statement, the company stated that it has taken disciplinary action against employees involved in the misconduct including “separation and financial penalties.”
Chow, who obtained a law degree from Tulane University, is an American citizen who worked in Keppel’s Singapore office as general manager and director of the legal department. He implicated other high-level Keppel executives in all three countries as well as other employees as being involved in the scheme, according to the U.S. Department of Justice.
“By no later than 2008, I realized that Keppel was overpaying the agent, sometimes by millions of dollars, so that the agent could pay bribes to individuals who could help Keppel Offshore Marine doing business with Petrobras,” Chow’s transcript said. “Although no one ever named the bribe recipients for me, I knew that they were government officials and ruling political party.”
On one occasion, Chow said he was in Houston and sent “the executed copy of the contract from Houston, Texas, to the agent to confirm that my seniors at Keppel had signed the contract.” He continued, “While I didn’t negotiate the contracts or make the decisions to pay the bribes, I knew that the contracts existed to make the payments legitimate and that they were an important part of the bribery scheme. I am deeply sorry for my conduct.”
Chow is scheduled for sentencing in Brooklyn on May 2. He faces up to five years in prison, three years of supervised release, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines. He is represented by John Carroll of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, who did not return a message seeking comment.
Both Chow and the company are cooperating with the DOJ’s ongoing investigation into misconduct by other individuals in the case.