Expat U.S. Citizen Charged in Iraq Bribes




 
--
Boots
 
November 17th, 2005  
Team Infidel
 
 

Topic: Expat U.S. Citizen Charged in Iraq Bribes


By MARK SHERMAN - Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON - (AP) An American businessman living overseas paid
at least $630,000 in kickbacks to U.S. occupation authority officials to win
reconstruction contracts in Iraq, according to a federal affidavit made
public Wednesday.
Philip H. Bloom, a U.S. citizen who has lived in Romania for many
years, was arrested recently at Newark International Airport in New Jersey.
He made a brief appearance Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Washington
and remains in federal custody.
Prosecutors at the court hearing did not detail the charges against
Bloom, but U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson said they involve money
laundering and conspiracy to defraud the government. The charges remain
under seal.
Bloom's lawyer Robert A. Mintz did not immediately respond to a
request for comment.
The U.S. is spending tens of billions of dollars to rebuild Iraq.
The award of more than $10 billion to Halliburton Co. and its subsidiaries
in 2003 and 2004, some of it in no-bid contracts, has drawn criticism from
lawmakers and others.
Justice Department officials said they are unaware of previous
indictments arising from contracting fraud in Iraq. But the charges against
Bloom stem from a series of audits by Stuart W. Bowen Jr., the U.S. special
inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, that found indications of
potential fraud.
A government affidavit alleges that Bloom conspired with officials
of the Coalition Provisional Authority and U.S. military to rig bids for
contracts in Al-Hillah and Karbala, two cities 50 to 60 miles south of
Baghdad. In some cases, Bloom's companies performed no work, Patrick McKenna
Jr., an investigator in the IG's office, said in the affidavit.
Bloom or companies he controls made bank deposits of $353,000 on
behalf of at least two CPA officials and bought them real estate in North
Carolina as well as vehicles and jewelry worth more than $280,000 in 2004
and 2005, McKenna said.
One of the unnamed officials is described as the comptroller and
funding officer for the CPA's South Central Region. Bloom transferred
$140,000 to a North Carolina realty firm in March 2004 on this official's
behalf, the affidavit said.
The second person, who also worked on contracts in that office, has
been cooperating with investigators along with an Iraqi business owner who
worked in Al-Hillah. The CPA ran Iraq from just after the invasion in March
2003 until June 2004.
One of the officials is in the Defense Department, said a government
official who did not want to be named because court documents are under
seal.
At one point, Bloom was allegedly paying at least $200,000 a month
to CPA officials and others, although the affidavit does not say for how
long.
Projects won by Bloom's companies included a new police academy for
Al-Hillah and renovation of the public library in Karbala.
The affidavit did not include the entire value of all contracts
awarded to Bloom's companies, but said he received at least $3.5 million
between January and June of last year.
Bloom is described on a Web site for one of his companies as a
former PepsiCo executive in Europe and an early Peace Corps volunteer who
has lived in Romania for many years.
"Bloom and his staff ... are at the center of the Iraq
reconstruction effort, providing the utmost performance in brokering,
contracting, creating and developing projects for the cream of the crop,"
according to the Web site for Baltazar, Bloom and Pirvulescu, a Romanian
financial consulting firm.