Former Ericsson Employee Charged in Foreign Bribery Scheme

(Bloomberg) — A former Ericsson AB employee was charged in the U.S. of taking part in a conspiracy to bribe foreign officials in order to win a contract from Djibouti’s state-owned phone company.

Prosecutors in New York charged Afework Bereket with conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and to launder money. The money-laundering conspiracy count carries a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison. The charges were contained in an indictment unsealed Wednesday in Manhattan federal court. Bereket, 53, a dual citizen of Ethiopia and Sweden, is not in U.S. custody.

The U.S. claims Bereket conspired to pay off two Djibouti government officials and an executive of a state-owned telecommunications company. Bereket used a sham consulting contract, a phony due-diligence report and fake invoices to hide his tracks, according to prosecutors. Bereket was an Ericsson account manager for the Horn of Africa from November 2010 until July 2013.

Ericsson pleaded guilty to foreign bribery in 2019, agreeing to pay more than $1 billion to resolve a U.S. investigation into illegal payments in Asia, Africa and the Middle East. The Stockholm-based company admitted to a yearslong campaign of corruption aimed at solidifying its grip on the telecommunications business, according to prosecutors, who charged the company with making tens of millions of dollars in improper payoffs in five countries. Four former employees were charged with bribery in Stockholm in May. 

The case is: U.S. v. Bereket, 20-cr-00283, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).

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