Three former U.S. Army Corps of Engineers project officials and two foreign contractor employees have been charged with 54 counts of bribery, fraud and conspiracy linked to $50.2 million worth of Corps construction contracts in Iraq, the U.S. Justice Dept. says. The new charges, unsealed on July 14, expand the list of defendants and their alleged offenses brought in a criminal complaint last October.
Charged in the federal indictment are John A. Salama Markus and Onisem Gomez, two U.S. citizens and former Corps project engineers in Iraq. Also named is Ammar Al-Jobory, an Iraqi working under a Corps contract as a deputy project engineer.
Other defendants are Ahmed Nouri, a British citizen and former vice president of Iraqi Consultants & Construction Bureau (ICCB), and Mithaq Al-Fahal, an Iraqi senior project manager at Sakar Al-Fahal. The Justice Dept. describes it as a “privately owned foreign engineering and construction company.”
Only Salama Markus and Nouri were charged last fall and only on three counts of bribery and fraud, says the Justice Dept. Salama Markus had been released on $500,000 bail and was ordered to wear an electronic bracelet. The four other defendants remain at large, says the government.
On its website, ICCB states its “clients” also include the contractors Fluor Corp., AMEC, Bechtel, Parsons Corp., KBR and Raytheon. The site did not clarify if the projects cited are current or completed. A Corps spokesperson could not be reached.
A Fluor spokesman says ICCB worked for the firm as a subcontractor from 2003 to 2006 on water and power projects. “At the end of that time, we terminated them for convenience due to ongoing schedule and supply issues,” the spokesman says. “Fluor experienced no such issues with ICCB during that time frame.”
The indictment says Salama Markus, from 2007 to 2008, accepted $4.2 million in bribes and kickbacks for contracts awarded to firms with which Nouri and Al-Fahal were associated. Gomez allegedly accepted at least $170,000 in bribes through Salama Markus in 2008. The Justice Dept. says Salama Markus was deployed to Tikrit, where he “was involved in the review and award process for contractors seeking lucrative Corps contracts.”
Paul J. Fishman, U.S. attorney in Newark, N.J., said, “The defendants allegedly treated projects to secure, safe access to fuel, electricity, education and medical treatment as opportunities for illegally amassing personal wealth.”
Victor Lessoff, agent-in-charge of criminal investigation for the U.S. Internal Revenue Service, said Salama Markus allegedly “used his position … by soliciting bribes in exchange for confi=dential bidding information.”