Ex-Keppel lawyer co-operated with US in bribery probe: Documents

BOSTON - A former lawyer at Keppel Corp Ltd's oil rig building business secretly pleaded guilty and co-operated with US authorities before the Singapore-based company agreed to pay US$422 million (S$566 million) to settle charges it bribed Brazilian officials, according to court documents.

Jeffery Chow, a former senior member of Keppel Offshore & Marine Ltd's legal department, cut a deal to help prosecutors in their probe of Keppel and other former executives, according to the documents unsealed on Tuesday in federal court in Brooklyn.

Chow, 59, pleaded guilty on Aug 29 to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act as part of his deal to co-operate. He admitted to drafting contracts that were used to make bribe payments, according to court records.

"I am deeply sorry for my conduct," Chow, 59, said during his plea hearing, according to a transcript. Chow is scheduled to be sentenced on May 2.

Court records state that Chow, a US citizen, has a residence in Singapore and worked for Keppel for over 25 years. His US lawyer did not respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

Chow's case was made public after the US Justice Department announced on Friday that Keppel Offshore & Marine agreed to pay US$422 million to resolve investigations by authorities in the United States, Brazil and Singapore.

The case centred on Brazil's state-run oil company Petrobras, also known as Petroleo Brasileiro SA, at the centre of a massive corruption investigation that has implicated dozens of Brazilian politicians.

The US Justice Department said from 2001 to 2014 Keppel paid US$55 million in bribes to officials at Petrobras and the governing political party at the time, the Workers Party of Brazil.

The bribes were paid to win 13 contracts with Petrobras and Sete Brasil Participacoes SA, a Brazilian company that commissioned a fleet of rigs for Petrobras' use, according to charging documents.

In the transcript of his Aug 29 plea, Chow said he drafted contracts with a Keppel agent in Brazil who he realised was being overpaid by millions of dollars so he could bribe Brazilian officials.

"I should have refused to draft the contract that we used for paying bribes and I should have resigned from Keppel," he said.

In total, Keppel Offshore & Marine earned US$351.8 million through the bribery scheme, according to court papers.

In its deal with the Justice Department, Keppel Offshore & Marine entered into a deferred prosecution while a US subsidiary pleaded guilty to conspiring to violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.