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Two former executives of Willbros International Inc, a subsidiary of the U.S.-based corporation Willbros Group, were sentenced on January 28, for their roles in a conspiracy to pay more than $6 million in bribes to government officials of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and officials from a Nigerian political party.
Jason Edward Steph was sentenced to 15 months in prison by a federal judge in Houston, Texas. In addition to the prison sentence, Steph was ordered to serve 2 years of supervised release following his prison term and to pay a $2,000 fine. Jim Bob Brown was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison and 2 years of supervised release following his prison term. During the supervised released period he will be required to pay a fine of $1,000 per month.
Steph and Brown pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Steph admitted that beginning in about late 2003, he conspired with others to make a series of corrupt payments totaling more than $6 million to various Nigerian officials and officials from a Nigerian political party to assist Willbros in obtaining and retaining the Eastern Gas Gathering System Project, which was valued at approximately $397 million.
Steph also admitted that in early 2005, he, along with Willbros International Incorporated executive Brown and others, arranged for the payment of approximately $1.7 million in cash to government officials in Nigeria to further the conspiracy.
Brown admitted that in early 2005, he conspired with others to pay bribes to government officials in Nigeria for the purpose of retaining the gas system project. He also admitted that at least as early as 1996 and continuing through at least 2004, he conspired with others to negotiate lower federal and state tax obligations in exchange for corrupt "under the table" payments to Nigerian revenue officials, including officials responsible for auditing and enforcing taxes, for the purpose of obtaining or retaining business and for securing an improper advantage.
Additionally, Brown admitted to making at least $300,000 in corrupt payments to Ecuadorian government officials affiliated with PetroEcuador and PetroCommercial, for the purpose of obtaining and retaining business for Willbros, Willbros International Incorporated and others, including the Proyecto Santo Domingo project.
The U.S. is committed to doing its part to end bribery and corruption in international trade. Bribing foreign officials is a crime and the U.S. government will hold accountable individuals and companies who violate the law.