VA Resident Charged with Conspiring to Bribe Ex-Panama Gov. Officials for Maritime Contract

December 16th, 2009

US Department of Justice

A federal grand jury has charged a Virginia Beach, Va., resident with conspiracy to pay bribes to former Panamanian government officials to secure maritime contracts.

John W. Warwick, 63, was charged in U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for Ports Engineering Consultants Corporation (PECC) in violation of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA). PECC, a company incorporated under the laws of Panama, was affiliated with an engineering firm based in Virginia Beach. According to the indictment, PECC was created so that Warwick, co-conspirator Charles Jumet, the engineering firm and others could corruptly obtain certain maritime contracts from the Panamanian government.

The indictment alleges that from at least 1997 through July 2003, Warwick, the former President of PECC, was involved in a conspiracy to pay money secretly to former Panamanian government officials for awarding PECC contracts to maintain lighthouses and buoys along Panama’s waterway. The indictment also alleges that the former Panamanian government awarded PECC a no-bid 20-year concession to perform these duties. Upon receipt of the concession, Warwick and others authorized corrupt payments to be made to the former Panamanian government officials.

According to court documents, as a result of the contracts, PECC received approximately $18 million in revenue from 1997 to 2000. In 2000, Panama’s Comptroller General Office suspended the contract while it investigated the government’s decision to award PECC a contract without soliciting any bids from other entities. In 2003, the Panamanian government resumed making payments to PECC.

The indictment also alleges Warwick, Jumet and others conspired to make corrupt payments totaling more than $200,000 to the former administrator and deputy administrator of the Panama Maritime Authority and to a former, high-ranking elected executive official of the Republic of Panama.

An indictment is merely an accusation and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty at trial beyond a reasonable doubt.

Jumet pleaded guilty on Nov. 13, 2009, to a two-count criminal information charging him with conspiring to make corrupt payments to foreign government officials for the purpose of securing business for PECC, in violation of the FCPA, and making a false statement. Jumet is scheduled to be sentenced on Feb. 12, 2010.

If convicted, Warwick faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of the greater of $250,000 or twice the gain or loss. The indictment seeks forfeiture of the proceeds that Warwick and his engineering firm received as a result of the contracts that the Panamanian government awarded PECC.

The case is being prosecuted by Trial Attorney Rina Tucker Harris of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael S. Dry of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia. The case was investigated by the FBI’s Washington Field Office, the FBI’s Richmond Field Office, ICE’s Washington Field Office and ICE’s Richmond Field Office.

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