Colin Steven avoids jail for bribery by helping investigators

Alasdair Whyte


Colin Steven, a former Embraer Executive Jet salesperson, has been spared jail after admitting to bribing a Saudi government official to win an aircraft sale.

Steven pleaded guilty to various offenses in December 2017 and was given a “non-incarceratory” sentence on December 12, 2018. US law firm Arnold & Porter represented Steven. 

“We are happy this long cooperative process is over, and we are thankful that Colin Steven can return home to his family and his bright future,” said John Nassikas, a partner and co-chair of Arnold & Porter’s White Collar Defense practice.

According to court documents, in 2009 Embraer was negotiating with Saudi Arabia’s national oil company over a potential sale of used aircraft. Steven reached an agreement with a “high-level foreign government official” that Embraer would win an order for new aircraft in return for a bribe of about $1.5 million.

The oil company awarded Embraer a contract for three new aircraft, worth about $93 million, early in 2010.

Steven arranged to disguise the bribe as commissions to a South African industrial valve and pump manufacturer that was partly owned by some friends. The company transferred most of the bribe money to a representative of the foreign official, but Steven kept almost $130,000 for himself.

Four years later, when Steven was being interviewed by the FBI, he claimed that an executive at the South African company had transferred the money to him so that he, Steven, could buy real estate as part of a potential business venture between the two. He later admitted that this was a lie.

Arnold & Porter said that Steven was rewarded for his exemplary and timely cooperation and complete acceptance of responsibility. The court ordered that he return the proceeds of the bribe that he had received and also pay a small fine.

Steven, a British citizen who lives in Dubai, had voluntarily flown to the US for the case. He did not need to do this as the United Arab Emirates does not have an extradition treaty with the US. 

In a statement Arnold & Porter said: “The Court questioned the prosecutor about the culpability of unindicted co-conspirators, prompting the prosecutor to agree that there are other culpable individuals who have not been charged.”

The court also received 56 letters from friends and family stressing his good character. 

The Arnold & Porter White Collar Defense team included John Nassikas, Andrew Bauer, Laura Lester, Brittany McClure and Jesse Feitel.

In December 2017 Steven pleaded guilty to one count of violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), one count of conspiracy to violate the FCPA, one count of wire fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud, one count of money laundering, one count of conspiracy to launder money, and one count of making a false statement.

Embraer reached a deferred prosecution agreement with the US Department of Justice (DoJ) in October 2016. It agreed to pay $107 million to the DoJ to resolve investigations by the DoJ, the Securities  &Exchange Commission, and Brazilian authorities into corrupt conduct in several countries, including Saudi Arabia.

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