Petrobras scandal: Ex-Keppel Offshore & Marine lawyer fined in US

Former Keppel Offshore & Marine (KOM) lawyer Jeffrey Shiu Chow was sentenced last week to a year's probation and a fine of US$75,000 (S$102,000) by a US district judge for his role in the Petrobras bribery scandal.

Chow, aged 61 and a US citizen, had in 2017 pleaded guilty in a New York court to conspiring to violate the anti-bribery provisions of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA).

In sentencing last Friday, US District Judge Kiyo Matsumoto ruled that Chow's probation may be served in Singapore, where he resides with his wife. He is also allowed to visit his mother in Louisiana during this time.

He was also ordered to pay a US$100 special assessment sum.

Chow, who had admitted to drafting contracts that were used to make bribe payments, worked in the legal department of KOM for over 25 years.

He said he drafted and approved contracts between KOM and its agent in Brazil, knowing that the contracts were fraudulent and meant to conceal bribes. "I should have refused to draft the contract that we used for paying bribes and I should have resigned from Keppel," Chow had said in court documents filed in the US District Court in Brooklyn, New York, in 2017.

"Although no one ever named the bribe recipients for me, I knew they were government party officials and (members of the then) ruling political party," he added.

In submissions to the court last month, Chow's lawyer John K. Caroll had sought probation, saying: "Mr Chow has lost his livelihood as a result of his misconduct."

He also cited many letters from colleagues, friends and family urging leniency.

Chow's former boss from 1982 to 1990, Mr Thomas Keaty, described him as "one of the most honest people known in life".

 
 

Mr Geoffrey John King, who worked with Chow from 1991 to 2006, wrote that he "found his conduct as beyond reproach - honest, forthright and dependable".

Similarly, Ms Angela Mejia, who worked with Chow from around 2000 to 2016, described his misconduct as his "one lone mistake in 26 years of exemplary service to his company and his profession".

KOM was embroiled in a US probe in 2016 into illegal payments made to executives of Brazil state oil company Petrobras as well as a party official with the Workers' Party of Brazil, a Brazilian political party. The bribes, disguised as consulting fees paid to intermediaries, helped KOM secure rig-building deals.

Chow had in 2017 entered into a plea agreement with the US Department of Justice to assist in its probe against KOM and its American unit, Keppel Offshore & Marine USA.

Keppel in December 2017 eventually agreed to pay US$422 million to resolve the corruption charges with the authorities in the US, Brazil and Singapore.

This amount was 25 per cent below the minimum US Sentencing Guidelines recommended fine, according to FCPA documents. KOM also agreed to self-report the status of its improved compliance policies for three years.

Contacted yesterday, a KOM spokesman said: "We are not in a position to comment on the judgment by a court of law."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on November 21, 2019, with the headline 'Petrobras scandal: Ex-Keppel Offshore & Marine lawyer fined in US'. Print Edition | Subscribe