Ex-Armenian envoy charged in Rolls-Royce bribery case

A former Armenian ambassador and a Russian national were charged by U.S prosecutors, the latest in a corruption probe alleging a conspiracy to orchestrate international bribes at Rolls-Royce Holdings Plc for more than a decade, Bloomberg reports.

Azat Martirossian, 62, a citizen of Armenia who formerly served as that country’s envoy to China, and Vitaly Leshkov, 50, a citizen of Russia, were charged in an indictment filed Thursday in federal court in Ohio on one count of conspiracy to launder money and 10 counts of money laundering. The two are believed to be living outside the U.S., according to prosecutors.

“Thanks to the coordinated efforts by our prosecutors and agents — working closely with their counterparts throughout the world — these defendants will face prosecution for their allegedly corrupt schemes,” John Cronan, acting head of the Justice Department’s criminal division, said in a statement.

The case focuses on efforts to secure a $145 million contract to power a gas pipeline from Kazakhstan to China. The charges come more than a year after Rolls agreed to pay $800 million to resolve probes in the U.S., U.K. and Brazil. The bribes occurred from 1999 to 2013 in Africa, the Mideast and South America, prosecutors said.

As employees of an international engineering consulting firm, Martirossian and Leshkov worked with Petros Contoguris, a Turkey-based adviser on oil and gas projects who was indicted in October on 19 charges including arranging corrupt payments and money laundering. Rolls made payments to his company knowing that funds would be shared with a high-ranking Kazakh official of KazMunayGas National Co., according to prosecutors.

The Justice Department investigation has thus far resulted in seven people charged, including two guilty pleas.

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