January 9, 2018

Real Estate Broker Pleads Guilty in Foreign Bribery Scheme Involving $800 Million Real Estate Deal

By the C|C Whistleblower Lawyer Team

A New Jersey real estate broker pleaded guilty to violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (“FCPA”) in connection with his efforts to bribe a foreign official for the purpose of securing a real estate deal. According to the Department of Justice, Joo Hyun, also known as Dennis Bahn, attempted in 2014 and 2015 to secure the sale of a building in Vietnam owned by Keangnam Enterprises Co Ltd, a Korean construction company where his father was an executive. In furtherance of these efforts, Joo Bahn and his father, Ban Ki Sang, agreed to pay $500,000 to a foreign official from Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund to influence him and the fund to purchase the building. The father and son defendants used Malcolm Harris, an arts and fashion blogger, as a middleman, asking him to pass the money on to the official in Qatar. Harris later admitted that he stole the money instead.

Originally charged in 2016 along with his father and Harris, Bahn pleaded guilty this week  to one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA and one count of violating the FCPA. The FCPA is used to prosecute individuals, companies and corporations with U.S. ties that bribe foreign officials to retain business overseas.

“Bribery and corruption undermine fair competition and the rule of law,” said Acting Assistant Attorney General Cronan.  “The fact that Joo Hyun Bahn’s intended scheme was thwarted by the greed and deception of one of his codefendants does not change the fact that he sought to steer an $800 million real estate deal by paying hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes.  The Department is committed to prosecuting those like Bahn who seek to corruptly tilt the playing field to their advantage.”

Harris pleaded guilty to his role in the scheme in June and was sentenced to 42 months in prison. Bahn’s sentencing is scheduled for June and his father is still awaiting trial. “As Bahn’s conviction demonstrates, federal law enforcement stands ready to root out commercial bribery wherever it is found,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Berman said.

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