Guilty Pleas in Kazakh Bribery Case

     MANHATTAN (CN) – The Mercator Corp. pleaded guilty to bribing a “senior government official” for oil and gas contracts in Kazakhstan, and Mercator’s Chairman James Giffen pleaded guilty to failing to disclose a Swiss bank account on his income tax return, federal prosecutors said.

     Giffen is accused of failing to disclose that he “maintained an interest in, and a signature and other authority over, a bank account in Switzerland in the name of Condor Capital Management, a British Virgin Islands corporation” which he controlled.
     “In 2007, the United States brought a separate, related civil forfeiture action against approximately $84 million on deposit in Switzerland,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said. “The civil complaint alleged that the funds were traceable to unlawful payments to senior Kazakh officials in connection with oil and gas transactions arranged by
     Mercator for Kazakhstan (No. 07 Civ. 3559 (LAP)). Pursuant to a 2007 agreement between the United States, Switzerland, and Kazakhstan, the funds are being used by a non-governmental organization in Kazakhstan, independent of the Kazakh Government, to benefit underprivileged Kazakh children.”
     Mercator faces a maximum penalty of a $2 million fine, or twice its gross gain from the offense.
     Giffen, 69, of Mamaroneck, faces up to a year in prison and a fine of $25,000.

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