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Don’t speak at anti-corruption event, then demand a bribe payment

Tom Fox | July 11, 2017

In what The Man From FCPA can term as emanating from the “Well That’s Awkward Dept.,” it was recently reported that Colombia’s top anti-corruption prosecutor was arrested in Miami, U.S., for, you guessed it—attempted corruption through extortion of a criminal defendant. Luis Gustavo Moreno was arrested in June after he was alleged to have demanded payments “in exchange for favorable treatment and names of witnesses” from a criminal defendant, Alejandro Lyons Muskus, the former Governor of the Colombian state of Córdoba. Lyons had been charged with some 20 counts related to an embezzlement scheme.

Lyons is in the United States avoiding charges back in his home country and fighting extradition back to Colombia. He was, however, “cooperating with the federal authorities and had agreed to wear a wire during meetings with the prosecutor and a middleman who the former governor said were extorting him.” Both Moreno and middleman, a criminal defense lawyer, Leonardo Luis Pinilla Gómez, were both under surveillance during their time in the United States. Ironically, Moreno was in Miami, U.S., to give an anti-corruption presentation to Internal Revenue Service investigators.

The arrest of Moreno brings up several interesting elements. The first is that Lyons is one of several South American officials who has fled to the United States after being indicted in their home country for corruption. With the continued information coming out of the Petrobras, Odebrecht, and J&F corruption scandals, which are seemingly engulfing Latin American countries, this number may well increase. The U.S. response to this influx of current and former South American government officials who may be called to pay the piper in their home countries for years of corruption will be telling.

Also, interestingly, Lyon is cooperating with U.S. authorities. According to another report, Lyons is cooperating with U.S. authorities on other corruption investigations. This cooperation could lead to other indictments of Colombian officials or officials from other South American countries.