NY man reaches deal in 10-year Kazakh bribery probe

by Reuters
Friday, 6 August 2010 21:20 GMT

NEW YORK, Aug 6 (Reuters) - A decade-long probe into a man accused of bribing Kazakhstan officials with tens of millions of dollars over oil ended Friday with a guilty plea -- the man admitted to checking the wrong box on his tax return.

After reaching a plea agreement with U.S. prosecutors, James Giffen, 69, pleaded guilty in Manhattan federal court to the misdemeanor of failing to provide tax information on his foreign bank accounts.

His company Mercator Corp separately pleaded guilty to a felony charge of violating an anti-corruption law by sending two snowmobiles valued at $16,000 to a senior Kazakh official as a New Years gift.

A veteran of orchestrating business deals between Western countries and the Soviet Union, Giffen was hired in 1994 by the Kazakh government as an adviser to attract foreign investment in its oil fields, U.S. prosecutors said.

Prosecutors had charged Giffen and Mercator with skimming millions of dollars from oil transactions, with some money going to Giffen's Swiss bank accounts and the rest to top Kazakh officials. The charges were dropped.

Giffen said in a statement he was "gratified" by the outcome. U.S. prosecutors declined to comment. (Reporting by Basil Katz, editing by Anthony Boadle)

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