- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Texas-based defense contracting company pleaded guilty Tuesday in a bribery scheme aimed at influencing the award of Defense Department contracts at Camp Victory in Iraq, the Justice Department said.

Raman International Inc. of Cypress, Texas, pleaded guilty in federal court in Oklahoma City to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery. Under the terms of a plea agreement reached in the case, Raman will pay a fine of $500,000 - the maximum for a conspiracy charge - and $327,192 in restitution to the Defense Department.

“The Department of Justice will vigorously prosecute criminal conspiracies that target our military’s effort to obtain necessary goods and services,” said Assistant Attorney General Thomas O. Barnett, who heads the department’s antitrust division.

According to the plea agreement, a military officer - identified in a grand jury indictment only as a female major in the U.S. Army Reserves - received money and other items from Raman and Elie Samir Chidiac, a former Raman employee. Among the items she received was a 2003 Harley Davidson Fixed Wing Anniversary Edition motorcycle, in return for conveying sensitive information and fraudulently awarding contracts to the company, authorities said.

The Army major has not been charged in the case, but the investigation is continuing.

Chidiac, a U.S. citizen, served as Iraq manager for Raman from May 2006 until May 2007. In January, he was indicted on two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery. The plea agreement said Chidiac received payments from Defense on Raman’s behalf and kicked back a portion of that profit to the military officer. Chidiac currently is a fugitive.

The Army procures goods and services in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom, including critical infrastructure, technological components and construction services. Camp Victory is the primary component of the Victory Base Complex near Baghdad International Airport.

“It is noteworthy that this bribery scheme was detected by federal agents detailed to the Victory Base Complex in Iraq,” said Deputy Assistant Attorney General Scott Hammond, also an antitrust division prosecutor.

Sharon E. Woods, director of the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, said it was “unconscionable that while our servicemen and women are risking their lives in a combat zone protecting our national security, some of those entrusted with sustaining our troops are engaged in deceit that deprives our troops of the full support they deserve.”

Brig. Gen. Rodney Johnson, who is in charge of the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command, said he was “shocked” by the conspiracy, but “our criminal investigation command special agents have a robust and highly effective presence in the contracting arena, both at home and abroad, and we will continue to pursue those who violate the law and the public’s trust.”

The charges represent the Justice Department’s commitment to protecting U.S. taxpayers from procurement fraud through the creation of the National Procurement Fraud Task Force.

The initiative, announced in October 2006, is designed to promote the early detection, prosecution and prevention of procurement fraud associated with the increase in contracting activity for national security and other government programs.

Justice Department officials said the indictments were part of an ongoing investigation by its antitrust division’s National Criminal Enforcement Section along with the Defense Criminal Investigative Service and the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Division.

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