Plea in Major FCPA Case Raises Entrapment Issues

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Government informant Richard Bistrong’s recent guilty plea to Foreign Corrupt Practices Act charges will probably fuel arguments that defendants in the largest-ever FCPA case were entrapped. While those arguments may not succeed, they do have merit.

Best known as “Individual 1” in the so-called Africa Sting case, Bistrong helped the FBI build the single largest foreign bribery investigation and prosecution brought against individuals. Prosecutors allege that 22 military and law enforcement equipment industry executives tried to bribe men who posed as representatives of an African defense ministry in order to win contracts to provide arms, including guns, body armor and other related equipment. The alleged defense officials were actually FBI agents.

Bistrong was highly motivated to help the government build the Africa Sting case; his freedom literally depended on it. Under a plea agreement signed several months before he introduced the Africa Sting defendants to the undercover “foreign official,” Bistrong faced five years’ imprisonment. DOJ agreed to consider recommending less prison time if Bistrong provided “substantial assistance” in the investigation or prosecution of other criminal matters. The key was that Bistrong’s “assistance” had to be of such quality and significance to warrant recommending a departure from the Sentencing Guidelines.

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