Keppel FELS employees stand amongst jackup rigs at their shipyard in Singapore. (File photo: Reuters/Edgar Su)
SINGAPORE: The Government’s intention is to move as “expeditiously as possible” on investigations relating to Keppel Offshore & Marine’s (Keppel O&M) graft scandal and the Attorney-General's Chambers (AGC) has sought assistance for evidence from authorities in other jurisdictions, said Senior Minister of State for Finance and Law Indranee Rajah in Parliament on Monday (Jan 8).
She was responding to questions from Members of Parliament (MPs) about the international bribery scandal that has engulfed the rig-building unit of conglomerate Keppel Corp.
Court documents released by the US Justice Department on Dec 23 said that Keppel O&M "knowingly and wilfully conspired” to pay bribes to Brazilian officials and politicians in exchange for business deals.
The illicit payments, amounting to US$55 million made between 2001 to 2014, helped the company to secure 13 contracts from Brazilian oil firms Petrobas and Sete Brasil.
Ms Indranee noted that given that the case involved several Brazil-based projects dating back to 2001, many of the evidence, including documents and witnesses, are located in different jurisdictions, such as Brazil and the United States.
For investigations in Singapore, the AGC will need these evidences and it has sought assistance, she said.
“AGC has asked for certain information from them and some of its requests are still pending. AGC anticipates that further requests will have to be made as the investigations develop.”
The AGC is also working for a request for mutual legal assistance, said Ms Indranee. This is a procedure whereby one country formally seeks assistance from another to obtain or secure evidence for use in its own investigations and proceedings.
This request will be reviewed and administered by the courts of the foreign countries. How quickly and to what extent will these requests will be processed will depend on the jurisdiction where the request is made, said Ms Indranee.
“Obviously, the intention is to move as expeditiously as possible however as I’ve explained, not all aspects of the investigation are within our control,” she said. “This is not a case when CPIB and AGC are acting alone on a domestic case. This is an international case where many different investigating agencies are involved."
“Only after the investigations are completed, can the AGC properly assess the case and decide on the appropriate response," she added.
Investigations into individuals implicated in the graft scandal are ongoing, said Ms Indranee. "Singapore investigations are conducted at the same time frame as the US and Brazilian investigations, and go back to 2001 when the corrupt acts first took place."
While there is no agreement within the Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) that prevents the disclosure of individuals under investigation, it is "standard practice" in Singapore and many other jurisdictions to not identify individuals under investigation.
“Individuals will be identified if and when charges are preferred in court,” she said.
GLOBAL RESOLUTION ACHIEVES MORE THAN PCA: INDRANEE
Ms Indranee said that authorities in the US, Singapore and Brazil worked with each other to reach an agreed approach on the case of Keppel O&M.
“There was no three-nation plea bargain agreement,” she said in response to a parliamentary question from Aljunied GRC MP Sylvia Lim Ms Lim. “What happened is each jurisdiction acted under its own domestic laws but in coordination with the other two.” Keppel O&M disclosed on Dec 23 that it would pay a hefty penalty of US$422 million (S$567 million) as part of a global resolution with authorities in three countries to resolve bribery charges.
As part of the global resolution, Keppel O&M entered into a Deferred Prosecution Agreement (DPA) with the US Department of Justice (DOJ), and a leniency agreement with Brazil’s Federal Public Ministry.
In Singapore, the public prosecutor directed the Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) to administer a conditional warning on Keppel O&M.
In reaching this decision, they considered factors such as how Keppel O&M had voluntarily reported internal findings to the CPIB and AGC in September 2016 and cooperated with all 3 jurisdictions in the investigation and resolution process.
A conditional warning allows Singapore to impose on Keppel O&M conditions that are "closely aligned" with the terms of the DPA, said Ms Indranee. This aligned approach allows for a robust resolution to the case, she added.
According to the US court documents, Keppel O&M will pay about US$105.6 million to the US, including a US$4.7 million criminal fine by Keppel O&M USA. Brazil will receive US$211.1 million or 50 per cent of the total criminal penalty, and Singapore will receive US$105.6 million or 25 per cent.
For Singapore, the AGC and CPIB said Keppel O&M has committed to certain undertakings and will pay to Singapore US$52.7 million within 90 days from the date of the conditional warning, and a further US$52.7 million within three years from the date of the conditional warning, less any penalties paid to Brazilian authorities during this period.
Ms Indranee said: "Any penalty or claim that Keppel O&M might be subjected to under the Singapore law would be far less than what the company is now liable for under the coordinated resolution."
"Keppel O&M is also required under the DPA to strengthen internal controls, compliance and anti-corruption programmers."
Therefore, the current resolution "achieves more than what we would be able to do if we had proceeded against the company solely on the Prevention of Corruption Act (PCA)", said Ms Indranee.
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