Bosses knew about bribe contract terms

This article is more than 12 months old

In US court transcripts, ex-lawyer for Keppel Offshore & Marine says he discussed illegal payments with senior executives of company

A former Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) lawyer drafted contracts used to pay bribes to Brazilian officials after "discussing the economic terms" with his seniors at Keppel and "acting in agreement" with them and others at the Singapore company.

Jeffrey Shiu Chow, 59, who had been a lawyer with KOM's legal department for over 25 years, was allowed to return to Singapore to assist with investigations into one of the biggest corruption cases here.

These details emerged in an Aug 29 transcript of his remarks at a hearing in New York that were unsealed on Dec 22, the same day KOM agreed to pay a US$422 million (S$563 million) penalty in connection with violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

The violations related to KOM paying US$55 million in bribes over 13 years to secure contracts with Brazilian oil giant Petrobras.

The Straits Times obtained a copy of US court transcripts, which showed that Chow, a US citizen, had cut a plea deal to help US prosecutors in their probe against the company and its American unit, Keppel Offshore & Marine USA.

Chow told the court he had realised by 2008 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".

"Although no one ever named the bribe recipients for me, I knew that they were government officials and the ruling political party," said Chow, adding that he should have refused to draft the contracts and resigned from Keppel.

"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 added.

Court records say Chow on April 12, 2012, sent an e-mail to an executive of a KOM unit, RIG Construction, "discussing how to structure commission payments that RIG would make to a consulting company controlled by a RIG agent".

When contacted, a Keppel spokesman said that when internal investigations uncovered suspicious transactions in Brazil, the company had announced in October 2016 that it had notified the authorities in the relevant jurisdictions and offered to cooperate fully and extensively in investigations.

Although no one ever named the bribe recipients for me, I knew that they were government officials and the ruling political party.Jeffrey Shiu Chow on illegal payments to Petrobras and Brazilian politicians

Chow is due to be sentenced on May 2. He faces a maximum term of supervised release of three years as well as a fine.

He has also been allowed to travel to Singapore as part of his bail package. A US$250,000 bond, part of the bail package, was secured by his brothers, Jimmy and Joseph Chow.

US lawyers had proposed that Chow avoid contact with individuals from Keppel. But his lawyer noted: "Mr Chow's life in Singapore has been working for Keppel. If he didn't see those individuals, he would be talking to his dog all day. We've counselled him to not have substantive conversations with people from Keppel."

The Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau (CPIB) said it was unable to comment on whether Chow is in or has returned to Singapore.

KOM has accepted a conditional warning from the CPIB in lieu of prosecution for offences punishable under the Prevention of Corruption Act, and as part of the global resolution.

The company has also taken disciplinary action against 17 current and former employees, including US$8.9 million of financial sanctions, demotions and departures.