Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Former NGO procurement official pleads guilty in bribery scheme

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A former non-governmental organization (NGO) procurement official pleaded guilty today to paying bribes to NGO procurement officers in exchange for sensitive procurement information related to NGO contracts funded in part by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

These contracts were for the procurement of food and supplies that would ultimately be provided to those affected by various humanitarian crises, including refugees displaced by the conflict in Syria.

Acting Assistant Attorney General Brian C. Rabbitt of the Justice Department’s Criminal Division, Acting U.S. Attorney Michael R. Sherwin of the District of Columbia, and Inspector General Ann Calvaresi Barr for the USAID Office of Inspector General (OIG) made the announcement.

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Ernest Halilov, 42, a citizen of Turkmenistan, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly of the District of Columbia to one charge of federal programs bribery.  Sentencing is scheduled for March 26, 2021.

According to admissions as part of his plea agreement, from January 2011 through December 2016, Halilov coordinated a bid-rigging scheme to bid on contracts procured by NGOs and funded by USAID, to support the agency’s response to various humanitarian crises.

Specifically, Halilov bribed two NGO officers in order to obtain confidential procurement information, such as bid evaluation information, specifications, and internal vendor rankings.  In turn, Halilov would provide this information to his preferred companies in exchange for kickbacks, ensuring that the companies had an advantage over other bidders, thus increasing their ability to win NGO-procured contracts.

Halilov also admitted that he instructed a witness to lie to law enforcement agents and destroy emails related to the investigation.

USAID-OIG investigated this case.  Trial Attorney Laura Connelly of the Criminal Division’s Fraud Section and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Scotland Morris of the District of Columbia are prosecuting the case.  In addition, the Justice Department’s Office of International Affairs provided critical investigative assistance and in securing the defendant’s extradition from Ukraine.  The Department of Justice also appreciates the significant cooperation and assistance provided by authorities in the Ukraine.

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